Front Page Titles (by Subject) Voltaire Age of Louis XIV. VOL. XII—Part II - The Works of Voltaire, Vol. XII (Age of Louis XIV)
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Voltaire Age of Louis XIV. VOL. XII—Part II - Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire, Vol. XII (Age of Louis XIV) 
The Works of Voltaire. A Contemporary Version. A Critique and Biography by John Morley, notes by Tobias Smollett, trans. William F. Fleming (New York: E.R. DuMont, 1901). In 21 vols. Vol. XII.
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Voltaire Age of Louis XIV. VOL. XII—Part II
THE WAR OF 1701—CONDUCT OF PRINCE EUGENE, MARSHAL VILLEROI, THE DUKE OF VENDÔME, THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH, AND MARSHAL VILLARS; UNTIL THE YEAR 1703.
The first general to put a check to the superiority of the French arms was a Frenchman, for so we should call Prince Eugene, though he was the grandson of Charles Emanuel, duke of Savoy: his father, the count de Soissons, had settled in France, where he was lieutenant-general of the king’s armies, and governor of Champagne, and had married Olympia Mancini, one of the nieces of Cardinal Mazarin. From this match, so unfortunate in other respects, was born this prince, who afterward proved so dangerous an adversary to Louis XIV., and was so little known to him in his youth. He was known at first in France by the name of the Chevalier de Carignan; he afterward took the petit collet, and was called the Abbot of Savoy. It is said that he asked the king for a regiment, which his majesty refused him, on account of his being too much connected with the princes of Conti, who were then in disgrace. Not being able to succeed with Louis XIV., he went to serve the emperor against the Turks in Hungary, in 1684, together with the princes of Conti, who had already made a glorious campaign there. The king sent an order to the princes of Conti, and all those who had accompanied them in this expedition, to return home. The abbot of Savoy was the only one who refused to comply with this mandate: he continued his journey, openly declaring that he renounced France forever. The king, when he was told of this, said to his courtiers, “Don’t you think I have had a great loss?” and these gentlemen gave it as their opinion that the abbot of Savoy would always be a mad-headed fellow, and fit for nothing. They founded their judgment on certain sallies of youth, by which we are never to judge of men. This prince, who was held in so much contempt at the court of France, was born with all the qualifications which form the hero in war and the great man in peace. He had a just and lofty mind, and the necessary courage, both in the field and cabinet. He was guilty of faults, as all generals have been, but these were lost in the number of his great actions. He shook the greatness of Louis XIV. and the Ottoman power: he governed the empire, and in the course of his victories and ministry showed an equal contempt for vainglory and riches. He cherished, and even protected, learning, as much as could be done at the court of Vienna. At this time he was about thirty-seven years of age, and had the experience of his own victories over the Turks, and the faults which he had seen committed by the imperialists in the late wars in which he served against France. He entered Italy by the country of Trent, in the territories of Venice, with thirty thousand men, and with full liberty to make such use of them as he pleased. The court at first forbade Marshal Catinat to oppose the passage of Prince Eugene, either because they would not commit the first act of hostility, which was bad policy when the enemy had already taken up arms, or else because they would not disoblige the Venetians, who were, however, less to be feared than the German army. This first mistake in the court occasioned Marshal Catinat to commit others. That person rarely succeeds who follows a plan that is not his own; besides, we well know how difficult a matter it is, in a country cut through with rivers and streams, toprevent a skilful enemy from passing them. Prince Eugene, to a great depth of scheming, added a lively promptitude of execution. From the nature of the ground on the banks of the Adige, the enemy’s army was more compact, while that of the French was more extended. Catinat was for marching to meet the enemy; but the generals started difficulties and formed cabals against him. Instead of making them obey him, he gave way; the mildness of his disposition led him to commit this great error. Eugene began on July 9, 1701, by forcing the post of Carpi, near the White Canal, which was defended by St. Fremont, who neglected the general’s orders in some respects, and occasioned his own defeat. After this success, the German army had the command of all the country between the Adige and the Adda, and penetrated into Bressan, while Catinat retreated behind the Oglio. Several good officers approved of this retreat, which, in their opinion, was a very prudent one; to which we may further add, that the failure of the provisions and ammunition promised by the ministry rendered it absolutely necessary. The courtiers, and especially those who had hopes of succeeding Catinat in the command, represented his behavior as a scandal to the French name. Marshal Villeroi persuaded them that he could retrieve the honor of the nation. The confidence with which he spoke, and the liking the king had for him, procured him the command in Italy; and Marshal Catinat, notwithstanding his former victories at Staffarde and Marseilles, was obliged to serve under him.
The marshal duke de Villeroi was son of the king’s governor; had been brought up with his royal master, and always enjoyed a principal share of his favor; he had been with him in all his campaigns, and made one in all his parties of pleasure; he was of an agreeable and engaging figure, extremely brave, a very worthy man, a good friend, sincere in his connections and magnificent in all his actions. But his enemies said he was more taken up, after he came to be general, with the honor and pleasure of commanding than with the schemes of a great captain, and reproached him with being so much wedded to his own opinion as to slight the advice of everyone else.
He now repaired to Italy, to lord it over Catinat, and disgust the duke of Savoy. His behavior showed that he thought a favorite of Louis XIV. at the head of so powerful an army was infinitely superior to a prince. He never called the duke by any other name than M. de Savoy, and treated him like a common general in the pay of France, and not like a sovereign. In a word, the friendship of this prince was not regarded so much as was necessary, considering that he was master of the barriers which nature had placed between France and Italy. The court thought that fear was the surest knot to bind him; and that a French army, surrounding about six or seven thousand Piedmontese, was a sufficient pledge for his fidelity. Marshal Villeroi behaved to him as his equal in common correspondence, and his superior in the command. The duke of Savoy had the empty title of generalissimo, but Marshal Villeroi was so in fact. He immediately gave orders for attacking Prince Eugene in the post of Chiari, near the Oglio. The general officers were of opinion that it was against all the rules of war to attack this post, for these essential reasons: that it was of no consequence; that the intrenchments were inaccessible; that nothing could be gained by forcing them, and that, if they failed, the reputation of the whole campaign would be lost. Villeroi, however, told the duke of Savoy that he must march, and sent an aide-de-camp to order Marshal Catinat in his name to begin the attack. Catinat made the messenger repeat the order to him three different times; then turning toward the officers who were under his command: “Come on then, gentlemen, we must obey.” They marched directly up to the intrenchments, and the duke of Savoy fought like a person who had no subject of complaint against France. Catinat fought everywhere for death; he was wounded, but nevertheless, on seeing the king’s troops repulsed, he made a retreat; after which he quitted the army, and returned to Versailles, to give an account of his conduct to the king, without complaining of any one.
Prince Eugene always maintained his superiority over Marshal Villeroi; at length, in the heart of the winter of 1702, one day when the marshal was sleeping in full security in Cremona, a strong town, and provided with a very numerous garrison, he found himself awakened with the noise of a discharge of small arms; upon which he rose in haste, mounted his horse, and the first thing he met with was a squadron of the enemy. The marshal was immediately made prisoner and led out of the town, without knowing anything that had passed there, and unable to conceive the cause of so extraordinary an event. Prince Eugene was already in the town of Cremona; a priest called Bozzoli, provost at St. Mary la Nova, had introduced the German troops through a common sewer. Four hundred men having been conveyed through this sewer into the priest’s house, immediately killed the guard at the two gates, which were opened, and Prince Eugene entered the city with four thousand men. All this was done before the governor, who was a Spaniard, had the least suspicion, or Marshal Villeroi was awake. The whole affair was conducted with the greatest secrecy, order, and diligence. The Spanish governor, on the first alarm, appeared in the street with a few soldiers, but was presently shot dead; all the general officers were either killed or made prisoners, excepting Lieutenant-General Count de Revel, and the marquis du Prâlin. Chance, however, confounded the prudent measures of Prince Eugene.
It happened that the chevalier d’Entragues was that day to review the regiment of marines, of which he was colonel; the soldiers were assembled at four o’clock in the morning, in one of the outskirts of the city, exactly at the time that Prince Eugene entered at the other part; d’Entragues began to run through the streets with his soldiers; he repulsed those of the enemy that came in his way, and by this means gave the rest of the garrison time to repair thither. The streets and squares were filled with officers and soldiers, confusedly mingled together, some with arms, some without, and others half naked, without any commander at their head. The fight began in the utmost confusion, and they intrenched themselves from street to street, and from square to square. Two Irish regiments, that made part of the garrison, checked the efforts of the imperialists. Never was greater prudence shown in the surprise of a town, nor more valor in defending it. The garrison consisted of about five thousand men; Prince Eugene had as yet introduced only four thousand; a large detachment of his army was to have joined them by the bridge over the Po; the measures were well concerted, but another stroke of chance rendered them all fruitless. This bridge, which was guarded only by a hundred French soldiers, was to have been seized upon by the German cuirassiers, who were ordered to go and make themselves masters of it, the instant Prince Eugene entered the town. For this purpose, as they came in by the south gate, next to the common sewer, they were to go out into the country of Cremona at the northern part of the city, through the Po gate, and then immediately make the best of their way to the bridge. As they were going through the city, the guide who conducted them was killed by a musket-shot from a window; the cuirassiers mistook one street for another, and wandered out of their way. During this interval, the Irish assembled at the Po gate, attacked and repulsed the cuirassiers; and the marquis du Prâlin, seizing this lucky moment, ordered the bridge to be broken down; the aid which the enemy expected could not cross, and the town was saved.
Prince Eugene, after having fought the whole day, and constantly keeping possession of the gate by which he entered, at length retired, taking with him Marshal Villeroi, and most of the general officers prisoners, but disappointed in taking Cremona, which his activity and prudence, together with the negligence of the generals, had once made him master of; and which chance, and the valor of the French and Irish troops, had snatched from him again.
Marshal Villeroi, who was extremely unhappy on this occasion, was condemned by the courtiers at Versailles, with all the severity and acrimony that his share of the royal favor, and the loftiness of his character, which was taken by them for vanity, could inspire. The king, who blamed but did not condemn him, was not a little displeased to find his choice so highly censured, and in the heat of his resentment suffered these words to escape him: “They take a pleasure in abusing him, because he is my favorite;” a term that he never before in his life made use of in regard to anyone. The duke of Vendôme was immediately ordered to go and take the command in Italy.
The duke of Vendôme was grandson of Henry IV., and like him, intrepid, mild, beneficent, and humble; a stranger to hatred, envy, and revenge; he showed pride only among princes, and behaved with equality to everyone else: he was the only general under whom the common men were not led to fight merely from principles of military duty, and that mechanical instinct which obeys the orders of an officer. They fought for the duke of Vendôme; and would have laid down their lives to extricate him out of a false step into which his fiery genius sometimes hurried him. He was thought not to equal Prince Eugene in the coolness and depth of his designs, and the art of subsisting his troops; he was too apt to neglect little matters, and suffered military discipline to languish in his army; he gave too much time to sleep and the pleasures of the table. This overindulgence put him more than once in danger of being carried off: but in the day of battle he made amends for all these faults, by a presence of mind and discernment which seemed to grow from danger; these opportunities he was continually seeking, being not so well qualified for a defensive war as Prince Eugene, but fully equal to him in the offensive.
The same disorder and negligence that he introduced into the army were visible to a surprising degree in his household, and even in his own person. From his great aversion to show or ostentation he contracted a slovenliness almost unparalleled; and disinterestedness, the most noble of all virtues, became in him a fault, by making him lose more by carelessness than he would have expended in acts of bounty. He has been often known to want even common necessaries. His brother, the grand prior, who commanded under him in Italy, had all his faults, which he carried to a still greater excess, and made amends for by the same valor. It is surprising to see two generals never rising from bed till four o’clock in the afternoon, and two princes, grandsons of Henry IV., neglecting their persons in a manner that the meanest soldier would have thought shameful.
What is still more surprising is that mixture of activity and indolence with which Vendôme carried on so smart a war against Eugene; a war of artifice, surprises, marches, crossing of rivers, petty skirmishes, often as fruitless as bloody; and murderous battles, in which both sides claimed the victory; such as that of Luzzara—Aug. 15, 1701—for which Te Deum was sung both at Paris and Vienna. Vendôme always came off conqueror, when he had not to deal with Prince Eugene in person; but as soon as that general appeared at the head of his troops, the French had no longer the advantage.
In the midst of these battles, and the sieges of so many towns and cities, private intelligence was brought to Versailles that the duke of Savoy, grand-nephew of Louis XIV., father-in-law of the duke of Burgundy and Philip V., was going to quit the Bourbon interest, and was actually in treaty with the emperor. Everyone was astonished that he should at once leave two sons-in-law, and give up what appeared to be his true interest: but the emperor had promised him all that his sons-in-law had refused him: Montferrat, Mantua, Alexandria, Valencia, and the countries between the Po and the Tanaro, with more money than he received from France. The money was to be furnished by England, for the emperor had hardly sufficient to pay his troops. England, the richest of all the allies, contributed more than any of them toward the common cause. Whether the duke of Savoy showed any regard for the laws of nature and nations is a question in morality which has very little to do with the conduct of sovereigns. The event, however, proved in the end that he was not at all wanting to the laws of policy in the treaty he made; but he was wanting in another very essential point of politics, in leaving his troops at the mercy of the French, while he was treating with the emperor. The duke of Vendôme ordered them to be disarmed; they were indeed no more than five thousand men, but this was no inconsiderable object to the duke of Savoy.
No sooner had the house of Bourbon lost this ally, when she heard that Portugal had likewise declared against her. Peter, king of Portugal, acknowledged the archduke Charles for king of Spain. The imperial council, in the name of this archduke, dismembered, in favor of Peter II., a monarchy, in which he was not as yet master of a single town; and, by one of those treaties which are never executed, ceded to him Vigo, Bayonne, Alcantara, Badajoz, a part of Estremadura, all the countries lying to the west of the river La Plata in America; in a word, he made a partition of what he had not to give, in order to acquire what he might.
The king of Portugal, the prince of Hesse-Darmstadt, minister to the archduke, and the admiral of Castile, his creature, implored the assistance of the king of Morocco. They not only entered into a treaty with these barbarians, supplying them with horses and corn, but they likewise asked for a body of troops. The emperor of Morocco, Muley Ismael, the most warlike and politic tyrant at that time in the Mahometan nation, would not send his troops but on such terms as were dangerous to Christendom, and shameful to the king of Portugal; he demanded a son of that king’s as a hostage, together with a certain number of towns. The treaty did not take place; and the Christians contented themselves with tearing each other to pieces with their own hands, without calling in barbarians. The assistance of Africa would not have done the house of Austria so much service as that of England and Holland did.
Churchill, earl, and afterward duke, of Marlborough, was declared general of the confederate armies of England and Holland, in the year 1702. This man proved as fatal to the French greatness as any that had appeared for many ages. He was not one of those generals to whom a minister delivers the plan of the campaign in writing, and who, after having followed the order he has received from the cabinet, at the head of his army, returns home to solicit the honor of being employed again. He at that time governed the queen of England; both by the occasion she had for his service, and by the authority his wife had over her affections. He had the command of the parliament by his powerful interest, and by that of the treasurer, Godolphin, whose son married one of his daughters. Thus having the direction of the court, the parliament, the war, and the treasury, more a king than ever William had been, as great a politician, and a much greater general, he exceeded the most sanguine hopes of the allies. He possessed in a degree superior to any general of his time that tranquil courage in the midst of tumult, and serenity of soul in danger, which the English call a cool head. It is perhaps to this qualification, the principal gift in nature for a commander, that the English are indebted for their victories over the French in the fields of Poitiers, Crécy, and Agincourt.
Marlborough, who was indefatigable as a warrior during the campaign, was no less active a negotiator in the winter; he went to The Hague, and visited all the courts of Germany; he persuaded the Dutch to drain themselves to humble France; he roused the resentment of the elector palatine; he flattered the pride of the elector of Brandenburg, who wanted to be king, by which he drew from him a supply of eight thousand men. Prince Eugene, on his side, had no sooner finished one campaign than he went to Vienna to make preparations for another. We may easily judge whether an army is better supplied, where the general is at the same time the prime minister.
These two great men, who had sometimes the command jointly, sometimes separately, always understood each other. They had frequent conferences at The Hague, with the grand pensionary, Heinsius, and the secretary, Fagel, who governed the United Provinces with equal abilities, and better success than the Barneveldts and DeWitts. They, in concert, continually set the springs of one-half of Europe in play against the house of Bourbon; and the French ministry was at that time much too weak to oppose those combined forces for any length of time. The plan of operations for the campaign was always kept an inviolable secret. They settled their designs among themselves, and did not intrust them even to those who were to second them until the instant of execution. Chamillard, on the contrary, being neither a politician, a warrior, nor even acquainted with the management of the revenue, and who yet acted as prime minister, was unable to plan any designs of his own; and was, therefore, obliged to be dependent on inferior people for their assistance. His secret was almost always divulged, even before he himself knew exactly what was to be done. Of this the marquis de Feuquières accuses him with great justice; and Madame de Maintenon acknowledges, in her letters, that she had made choice of a man who was not fit for the ministry. This was one of the principal causes of the misfortunes which befell France.
Marlborough, as soon as he came to the command of the allied army in Flanders, showed that he had learned the art of war of the great Turenne, under whom he had in his younger days made his first campaigns as a volunteer. He was then known in the army only by the name of the handsome Englishman: but Turenne soon perceived that this handsome Englishman would one day be a great man. He began his command by raising several subaltern officers in whom he had discovered merit, and who were till then unknown, without confining himself to the order of military rank, which we in France call the order of the Tableau. He was sensible that, when preferment is only the consequence of seniority, all emulation must perish; and that an officer is not always the most serviceable because the most ancient. He presently formed men. He gained ground upon the French without hazarding a battle. Ginkel, earl of Athlone, the Dutch general, disputed the command with him the first month, and, before six weeks were at an end, was obliged to yield to him in every respect. The king of France sent his grandson, the duke of Burgundy, against him, a wise and upright prince, born to make a people happy. The marshal de Bouflers, a man of indefatigable courage, commanded the army under the young prince. But the duke of Burgundy, after having seen several places taken before his face, and being by the skilful marches of the English, obliged to retreat, returned to Versailles before the campaign was half over, leaving Bouflers to be a witness to Marlborough’s successes, who took Venlo, Ruremonde, and Liège, and continued advancing without losing the superiority one instant.
When Marlborough returned to London at the close of this campaign, he received all the honors that could be bestowed in a monarchy and a republic. He was created duke by the queen; and, what was still more flattering, he received the thanks of the two houses of parliament, who sent deputies to compliment him at his own house.
But now there arose a person who seemed likely to restore the drooping fortunes of France. This was the marshal duke de Villars, then lieutenant-general, and whom we have since seen, at the age of eighty-two, commander-in-chief of the armies of France, Spain, and Sardinia; this man was bold and confident, and had himself been the architect of his own fortune, by his unwearied perseverance in the discharge of his duty. He sometimes offended Louis XIV., and what was still more dangerous, his minister, Louvois, by speaking to them with the boldness with which he served. He was accused of not having a modesty becoming his courage. But at length it was seen that he had a genius formed for war, and to command Frenchmen. He had been greatly advanced within a few years, after having been left a long time unnoticed.
Never was there a man whose preferment created more jealousy, and with less reason. He was marshal of France, duke, and peer, and governor of Provence: but then he had saved the state; and others who had ruined it, or had no other claim but that of being courtiers, had met with as great rewards. He was even upbraided with the riches which he acquired by contributions in the enemy’s country, a just and reasonable reward for his valor and conduct; while those who had amassed fortunes of ten times the value by the most scandalous methods continued to enjoy them with the approbation of the public. He did not begin to taste the sweets of the reputation he had acquired till he was nearly eighty; and he must have outlived the whole court to have enjoyed it undisturbed.
It may not be amiss to acquaint the world with the reason of this injustice in mankind. It was owing to the want of art in Marshal Villars: he had not enough to make himself friends, with integrity and understanding; nor to set a proper value upon himself, by speaking that of himself which he deserved that others should say of him.
One day as he was taking leave of the king, he said to him before the whole court: “Sire, I am going to fight against your majesty’s enemies, and leave you in the midst of mine.” He said to the courtiers of the duke of Orleans, regent of the kingdom, who had all grown rich by that subversion of the state called system: “For my part I never got anything but by the enemies of my country.” These speeches, which were accompanied by the same courage as his actions, were too humbling to those who were already sufficiently incensed at his good fortune.
At the beginning of the war he was one of the lieutenant-generals who had the command of the detachments in Alsace. His army was at that time in the mountains of Breisgau, which border on the Black Forest; and this immense forest separated the elector of Bavaria’s army from the French. Catinat, who commanded in Strasburg, had too much circumspection in his conduct to think of attacking the prince of Baden at such a disadvantage; as in case of a repulse, the French army must be hopelessly lost, and Alsace laid open. Villars, who had resolved to be marshal of France, or to die in the attempt, hazarded what Catinat did not dare to undertake. He wrote to court for permission; and then marched toward the imperialists at Friedlengen, with an inferior army, and fought the battle of that name, Oct. 14, 1702.
The horse engaged in the plain, the foot climbed up to the top of the hill, and attacked the German infantry which was intrenched in the woods. I have more than once heard Marshal Villars himself say, that after the battle was won, and as he was marching at the head of his infantry, a voice was heard crying out, “We are cut off;” upon which the whole body immediately took flight. He directly ran up to them, crying out, “What is the matter, friends? we have gained the victory, God bless the king.” The soldiers, all pale and trembling, repeated, “God bless the king,” and began to fly as before. He declared that he never met with more difficulty than in rallying the conquerors, and that if only two of the enemy’s regiments had showed themselves at that instant of general panic, the French would have been beaten; so frequently does the fate of battles depend on mere chance.
The prince of Baden, though he lost three thousand men, with all his cannon, was driven out of the field of battle, and pursued for two leagues, through woods and defiles, while as a proof of his defeat, the fort of Friedlengen capitulated. Nevertheless, he wrote to the court of Vienna that he had gained the victory, and ordered Te Deum to be sung, which was more shameful to him than even the loss of the battle.
The French recovered from their panic, proclaimed Villars marshal of France on the field of battle; and a fortnight later the king confirmed the title which the soldiers had conferred on him.
Marshal Villars, having joined the elector of Bavaria with his victorious army, found him also a conqueror, gaining ground of the enemy, and in possession of the imperial city of Ratisbon, where the assembly of the empire had lately vowed his destruction.
Villars was better qualified to serve his country when acting only according to his own genius than in concert with another. He carried, or rather dragged, the elector across the Danube; but no sooner had they passed that river than the elector began to repent of what he had done, perceiving, that on the least check, he should be obliged to leave his dominions at the enemy’s mercy. The count of Styria, at the head of nearly twenty thousand men, was marching to join the grand army under the prince of Baden, near Donauwörth. The marshal told the elector that this must be prevented, by marching directly and attacking Styria. The elector, willing to temporize, replied that he must consult his ministers and generals on that head. “Am not I your minister and general?” answered Villars. “Do you want any other counsel but me when you are to give battle?” The prince, realizing the danger which threatened his dominions, still kept back, and even grew angry with the general. “Well, then,” said Villars, “if your electoral highness will not embrace this opportunity with your Bavarians, I will begin the battle with the French;” and immediately gave orders for the attack. The prince was incensed, and regarded Villars as a madman, but was obliged to fight against his will. This was in the plains of Höchstädt, near Donauwörth.
After the first charge there appeared another instance of the effect of chance in battles. Both armies were seized at the same time with a panic, and fled; and Marshal Villars saw himself left alone for some minutes on the field of battle; however, he rallied his troops, led them back to the charge, and gained the victory. Three thousand of the imperialists were left dead on the field, and four thousand taken prisoners, with their cannon and baggage. The elector made himself master of Augsburg. The road to Vienna was open, and it was even debated in the emperor’s council whether he should quit his capital.
The emperor was excusable for his apprehensions; he was beaten everywhere. The duke of Burgundy, with Marshals Tallard and Vauban under him, had just taken old Breisach; and Tallard had not only taken Landau, but had also defeated the prince of Hesse, afterward king of Sweden, near Spires, as he was attempting to relieve the town. If we believe the marquis de Feuquières—a most excellent officer and competent judge in the military art, though rather too severe in his decisions—Marshal Tallard won the battle by a fault and a mistake. However, he wrote thus to the king from the field of battle: “Sire, your majesty’s army has taken more standards and colors than it has lost private men.”
In this action there was more execution done by the bayonet than in any other during the war. The French have a singular advantage in the use of this weapon, on account of their natural impetuosity; but it has become more menacing than fatal; quick and close firing has prevailed in its stead. The English and Germans were accustomed to fire in divisions with greater order and readiness than the French. The Prussians were the first who loaded with iron rammers. The second king of Prussia taught his troops such an exercise, that they could fire six times in a minute, with great ease. Three ranks discharging their fire at once, and then advancing briskly, decide the fate of the battle nowadays. The field-pieces produce a no less formidable effect. The battalions who are staggered with the fire do not wait to be attacked with the bayonet, and are completely defeated by the cavalry; so that the bayonet frightens more than it slays, and the sword is absolutely useless to the infantry. Strength of body, skill, and courage are no longer of any service to a combatant. The battalions are great machines, and those which are best formed naturally bear down all that stand in their way. This was the very thing which gave Prince Eugene the victory over the Turks in those famous battles of Temiswar and Belgrade; while the latter would in all probability have had the advantage from their superiority of numbers, had these battles been what we called mixed fights. Thus the art of destroying each other is not only entirely different from what it was before the invention of gunpowder, but even from what it was a century ago.
As the French arms maintained their reputation with such success at first in Germany, it was presumed that Marshal Villars would carry it still further by an impetuosity which would disconcert the German phlegm: but the qualifications which made him a formidable chief rendered it impossible for him to act in concert with the elector of Bavaria. The king would not suffer his generals to show haughtiness to any but his enemies; and the elector of Bavaria unhappily wrote for another marshal of France.
Villars then, whose presence was so necessary in Germany, where he had gained two battles, and might possibly have crushed the empire, was recalled and sent into the Cévennes, to make peace with the rebellious peasants. We shall speak of these fanatics in the chapter on religion. Louis XIV. had at this time enemies that were more terrible, successful, and irreconcilable than the inhabitants of the Cévennes.
LOSS OF THE BATTLE OF HÖCHSTÄDT, OR BLENHEIM.
The duke of Marlborough returned from the Low Countries in the beginning of 1703, with the same conduct and the same success. He had taken Bonn, the residence of the elector of Cologne. Thence he marched and retook Huy and Limburg, and made himself master of all the Lower Rhine. Marshal Villeroi, now returned from his confinement, commanded in Flanders, where he had no better success against Marlborough than he had had against Prince Eugene. Marshal Bouflers, with a detachment of his army, had indeed gained a small advantage in the fight of Eckeren, over the Dutch general, Opdam; but an advantage which has no consequences is no advantage at all.
And now the house of Austria was undone, unless the English general marched to the assistance of the emperor. The elector of Bavaria was master of Passau. Thirty thousand French, under the command of Marshal Marsin, who had succeeded Villars, overspread the countries of the other side of the Danube. There were several flying parties in Austria. Vienna itself was threatened on one side by the French and Bavarians, and on the other by Prince Ragotski, at the head of the Hungarians, fighting for their liberty, and supplied with money by the French and the Turks. In this situation of affairs, Prince Eugene hastens from Italy to take command of the armies in Germany: he had an interview with the duke of Marlborough at Heilbronn. The English general, whose hands were at full liberty, being left to act as he pleased by his queen and her allies, the Dutch, marched with reinforcements into the heart of the empire, taking with him ten thousand English foot, and twenty-three squadrons of horse. He made forced marches, and arrived on the banks of the Danube, near Donauwörth, opposite the elector of Bavaria’s lines, where about eight thousand French and as many Bavarians lay intrenched, to guard the country they had conquered. After an engagement of two hours, Marlborough forced the lines, at the head of three battalions of English, and routed the Bavarians and French. It is said that he killed six thousand of the enemy, and lost as many himself. A general concerns himself little about the number of slain, provided he succeeds in his enterprise. He then took Donauwörth, July 2, 1704, repassed the Danube, and laid Bavaria under contribution.
Marshal Villeroi, who attempted to follow him in his first marches, lost sight of him, and knew not where he was, till he heard the news of his victory at Donauwörth.
Marshal Tallard, who with a corps of thirty thousand men, had marched by another route to oppose Marlborough, came and joined the elector. At the same time Prince Eugene arrived and joined Marlborough.
At length the two armies met within a small distance of Donauwörth, and nearly in the same place where Marshal Villars had gained a victory the year before. I know that the marshal, who was then in the Cévennes, having received a letter from Tallard’s army, written the night before the battle, acquainting him with the disposition of the two armies, and the manner in which Marshal Tallard intended to engage, wrote to his brother-in-law, the president de Maisons, telling him that if Marshal Tallard gave the enemy battle in that position, he must inevitably be beaten. This letter was shown to Louis XIV. and afterward became public.
The French army, including the Bavarians, consisted of eighty-two battalions, and one hundred and sixty squadrons, which made in all nearly sixty thousand men, the corps being then not quite complete. The enemy had sixty-four battalions, and one hundred and fifty-two squadrons, in all not more than fifty-two thousand men; for armies are always made more numerous than they really are. This battle, which proved so bloody and decisive, deserves particular attention. The French generals were accused of a number of errors; the chief was, having brought themselves under a necessity of accepting a battle, instead of letting the enemy’s army waste itself for want of forage, and giving time to Marshal Villeroi, either to fall upon the Netherlands, then in a defenceless state, or to penetrate farther into Germany. But it should be considered in reply to this accusation, that the French army being somewhat stronger than that of the allies, might hope for the victory, which indeed would have dethroned the emperor. The marquis de Feuquières reckons up no less than twelve capital faults committed by the elector, Marsin, and Tallard, before and after the battle. One of the greatest was not having placed a large body of foot in their centre, and having separated the two bodies of the army. I have often heard Marshal Villars say, that this disposition was unpardonable.
Marshal Tallard was at the head of the right wing, and the elector, with Marsin, at the left. Tallard had all the impetuous and sprightly courage of a Frenchman, an active and penetrating understanding, and a genius fruitful in expedients and resources. It was he who had made the partition treaties. He was allied to glory and fortune by all the ways of a man of genius and courage. The battle of Spires had gained him great honor, notwithstanding the animadversions of Feuquières; for a victorious general never appears culpable in the eyes of the public, while he who is beaten is always in the wrong, however just or prudent his conduct may have been.
But Marshal Tallard labored under a malady very dangerous to a general; his sight was so weak that he could not distinguish objects at the distance of twenty paces from him. Those who were well acquainted with him have told me, moreover, that his impetuous courage, quite the reverse of the duke of Marlborough’s, growing still warmer in the heat of the action, deprived him sometimes of the necessary presence of mind. This defect was owing to a dry and inflammatory state of the blood. It is well known that the qualifications of the mind are chiefly influenced by the constitution of the body.
This was the first time that Marshal Marsin had the chief command. With a great deal of wit and a good understanding, he is said to have had rather the experience of a good officer than of a general.
As to the elector of Bavaria, he was looked upon not less as a great general than as a valiant and amiable prince, the darling of his subjects, and who had more magnanimity than application.
At length the battle began, between twelve and one o’clock in the afternoon. Marlborough, with his English, having passed a small rivulet, began the attack upon Tallard’s cavalry. That general, a little before, had ridden toward the left wing to observe its disposition. It was no small disadvantage to Tallard’s corps from the beginning to be obliged to fight without its general at its head. The corps commanded by the elector and Marsin had not yet been attacked by Prince Eugene. Marlborough began upon our right nearly an hour before Eugene could have come up to the elector at our left.
As soon as Marshal Tallard heard that Marlborough had attacked his wing, he immediately posted thither, where he found a furious action begun; the French cavalry rallied three times, and was as often repulsed. He then went to the village of Blenheim, where he had posted twenty-seven battalions, and twelve squadrons. This was a little detached army that kept a continual fire on Marlborough during the whole time he was engaged with Tallard’s wing. After giving his orders in this village, he hastened back to the place where the duke, with a body of horse and battalions of foot between the squadrons was driving the French cavalry before him.
M. de Feuquières is certainly mistaken in saying that Marshal Tallard was not present at this time, but was taken prisoner as he was returning from Marsin’s wing to his own. All accounts agree, and it was but too true of him, that he was actually present. He received a wound in the action, and his son was mortally wounded by his side. His cavalry was routed before his face. The victorious Marlborough forced his way between the two bodies of the French army on one side, while on the other his general officers got between the village of Blenheim and Tallard’s division, which was also separated from the little army in that village.
In this cruel situation, Marshal Tallard flew to rally some of the broken squadrons; but the badness of his sight made him mistake a squadron of the enemy for one of his own, and he was taken prisoner by the Hessian troops that were in English pay. At the very instant that the general was taken, Prince Eugene, after having been three times repulsed, at length gained the advantage. The rout now became total in Tallard’s division; everyone fled with the utmost precipitation; and so great was the terror and confusion throughout that whole wing, that officers and soldiers ran headlong into the Danube, without knowing whither they were going. There was no general officer to give orders for a retreat; no one thought of saving those twenty-seven battalions and twelve squadrons of the best troops of France, that were so unfortunately shut up in Blenheim, or of bringing them into action. At last Marshal Marsin ordered a retreat. The count du Bourg, afterward marshal of France, saved a small part of the infantry by retreating over the marshes of Höchstädt; but neither he, Marsin, nor anyone else thought of this little army, which still remained in Blenheim, waiting for orders which were never sent them. It consisted of eleven thousand effective men, from the oldest corps. There are many examples of less armies that have beaten others of fifty thousand men, or at least made a glorious retreat; but the nature of the post determines everything. It was impossible for them to get out of the narrow streets of a village, and range themselves in order of battle, in the face of a victorious army, that would have overwhelmed them at once with a superior front, and even with their own artillery, which had all fallen into the victors’ hands.
The general officer who commanded here was the marquis of Clérembaut, son of the marshal of that name: he was hastening to find Marshal Tallard, to receive orders from him, when he was told that he was taken prisoner; and seeing nothing but people running on all sides, he fled with them, and in flying was drowned in the Danube.
Brigadier Sivières, who was posted in this village, ventured on a bold stroke: he called aloud to the officers of the regiments of Artois and Provence, to follow him: several officers even of other regiments obeyed the summons, and rushing out of the village, like those who make a sally from a town that is besieged, fell upon the enemy; but after this sally they were obliged to return again. One of these officers, named Des Nonvilles, returned some few moments afterward on horseback, with the earl of Orkney. As soon as he entered the village, the rest of the officers flocked round him, inquiring if it was an English prisoner that he had brought in. “No, gentlemen,” replied he, “I am a prisoner myself, and am come to tell you, that you have nothing left but to surrender yourselves prisoners of war. Here is the earl of Orkney, who has come to offer you terms.” At hearing this, all these old bands shuddered with horror: the regiment of Navarre tore its colors, and buried them. But at length they were obliged to yield to necessity; and this whole army laid down its arms without having struck a blow. My lord Orkney has told me that it was impossible for them to do otherwise in their confined situation. Europe was struck with astonishment that the best troops in France should have suffered such disgrace. Their misfortune was at first imputed to cowardice; but a few years afterward the same thing happening to fourteen thousand Swedes, who surrendered at discretion to the Muscovites, in the open field, fully justified the French.
Such was this famous action of Aug. 13, 1704, which in France was known by the name of the battle of Höchstädt, and by the English and Germans was called the battle of Blenheim. The victors had nearly five thousand killed and eight thousand wounded; the greatest part of which loss fell on the side of Prince Eugene. The French army was almost entirely cut to pieces. Of sixty thousand men, who had been so long victorious, not more than twenty thousand could be gathered together after the battle.
This fatal day was distinguished by the loss of twenty thousand men killed, fourteen thousand made prisoners, all the cannon, a prodigious number of standards, colors, tents, and equipages, with the general of the army, and twelve hundred officers of note in the hands of the conquerors. The runaways dispersed themselves on all sides; and more than a hundred leagues of country were lost in less than a month. The whole electorate of Bavaria, now fallen under the yoke of the emperor, experienced all the severity of Austrian resentment, and all the cruelties of a rapacious soldiery. The elector, on his way to Brussels, whither he was flying for refuge, met with his brother, the elector of Cologne, who like him was driven out of his dominions; they embraced each other with a flood of tears. The court of Versailles, accustomed to continual successes, was struck with astonishment and confusion at this reverse. The news of the defeat arrived in the midst of the rejoicings made on account of the birth of a great-grandson of Louis XIV. No one would venture to acquaint the king with this cruel truth. At length Madame de Maintenon took upon her to let him know that he was no longer invincible. It has been affirmed both by word of mouth and in writing, and the same has been repeated in above twenty different histories, that the emperor ordered a monument of this defeat to be erected on the plains of Blenheim, with an inscription greatly to the dishonor of the French king; but no such monument ever existed.
The English erected one to the honor of their duke of Marlborough. The queen and the parliament built an immense palace for him on one of his principal estates, to which they gave the name of Blenheim, where this battle is represented in most curious paintings and tapestry. The thanks of the two houses of parliament, and of the cities and boroughs, and the general acclamation of the people, were the first fruits he received from his victory. But the poem written by the famous Addison, a monument more durable than the palace of Blenheim, is reckoned by this warlike and learned nation, among the most honorable rewards bestowed on the duke of Marlborough. The emperor created him a prince of the empire, bestowed on him the principality of Mindelsheim, which was afterward exchanged for another; but he was never known by that title; the name of Marlborough being now the most noble he could bear.
By the dispersion of the French army an open passage was left to the allies from the Danube to the Rhine. They passed the latter and entered Alsace. Prince Louis of Baden, a general famous for his encampments and marches, invested Landau. Joseph, king of the Romans, eldest son of the emperor Leopold, came to be present at this siege; Landau was taken, and afterward Traerbach.
Notwithstanding the loss of a hundred leagues of country, the French extended their frontiers. Louis XIV. supported his grandson in Spain, and his arms were victorious in Italy. It required great efforts to make head against the victorious Marlborough in Germany, which, however, he did; the scattered remains of the army were gathered together, the garrisons were ordered to furnish men, and the militia were ordered to take the field. The ministry borrowed money everywhere. At length an army was got together; and Marshal Villars was recalled from the heart of the Cévennes to take the command. He came and joined the army at Trier, where he found himself in presence of the English general with an inferior army. Both sides were desirous of giving battle; but the prince of Baden not coming up soon enough to join his troops to those of the English, Villars had the honor of obliging Marlborough to decamp, in May, 1705. This was doing a great deal at that time. The duke of Marlborough, who had a sufficient esteem for Marshal Villars to wish to be esteemed by him again, wrote him the following billet while he was decamping: “Do me the justice, sir, to believe, that my retreat is entirely the prince of Baden’s fault, and that I esteem you even more than I am angry with him.”
The French had still some barriers in Germany. The enemy had not yet done anything in Flanders, where Marshal Villeroi, now at liberty, had the command. In Spain King Philip V. and the archduke Charles were both in expectation of the crown, the former from the powerful assistance of his grandfather, and the good will of the greater part of the Spaniards; the latter from the assistance of the English, and the partisans he had in Catalonia and Aragon. This archduke, afterward emperor, second son of the emperor Leopold, went, toward the latter part of 1703, without any retinue, to London, to implore the assistance of Queen Anne.
Now the English power appeared in all its glory. This nation, which had in fact so little to do with this quarrel, furnished the Austrian prince with two hundred transport ships, thirty ships of war, joined to ten sail of the Dutch, nine thousand men, and a sum of money, to go and conquer a kingdom for himself. But notwithstanding the superiority which power and benefits confer, the emperor, in his letter to Queen Anne, which the archduke presented, would not give this princess, his benefactress, the title of majesty, but only that of serenity, agreeable to the style of the court of Vienna, which custom alone could justify, and which reason has since changed, when pride has been obliged to stoop to necessity.
LOSSES IN SPAIN—THE BATTLES OF RAMILLIES AND TURIN, AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES.
One of the first exploits performed by these English troops was the taking of Gibraltar, a place justly deemed impregnable. A long chain of steep rocks forbade all approach to it by land; it had no harbor, but only a long bay, very wild and unsafe, where ships lay exposed to storms and to the artillery of the fortress and mole; the inhabitants of the town were alone sufficient to defend it against a fleet of a thousand ships and a hundred thousand men. But this very strength was the cause of its being taken; there were only a hundred men in garrison, but these were more than sufficient, had they not neglected a duty which they looked upon as useless. The prince of Hesse had landed with eighteen hundred soldiers on the northernmost neck of land, behind the town; but the steepness of the rock made an attack upon the place impracticable on that side. The fleet in vain fired more than fifteen thousand shot; at length a body of sailors, in one of their merry-makings, happened to row close under the mole in their boats, the cannon of which might have sunk them all, but not a gun was fired; upon this they mounted the mole, made themselves masters of it, and fresh troops flocking in on all sides, this impregnable town was at length obliged to surrender, on Aug. 4, 1704. It is still in possession of the English; and Spain, now again become a formidable power under the administration of the princess of Parma, second wife of Philip V., and lately victorious in Africa and Italy, beholds with an impotent grief, Gibraltar in the hands of a Northern nation, that had hardly a single ship in the Mediterranean two centuries ago.
Immediately after the taking of Gibraltar, the English fleet, now mistress of the sea, attacked the count de Toulouse, admiral of France, in view of the castle of Malaga. This battle, Aug. 26, 1704, though not a decisive one, was the last epoch of the maritime power of Louis XIV. His natural son, the count de Toulouse, admiral of the kingdom, had fifty ships of the line and twenty-four galleys under his command. He made a glorious retreat, with very little loss. But the king afterward sent thirteen ships to attack Gibraltar, while Marshal de Tessé laid siege to it by land; this double rashness proved the ruin of both army and fleet. Some of the ships were destroyed by a storm, others were boarded and taken by the English after a most noble resistance, and another part of them burned on the coast of Spain. From that day the French had no longer any large fleets either in the Western Ocean or the Mediterranean. The marine returned nearly to the state from which Louis XIV. had raised it, as well as many other glorious things which rose and set under his reign.
The English, who had taken Gibraltar for themselves, in less than six weeks conquered the kingdom of Valencia and Catalonia for the archduke Charles. They took Barcelona by an event of chance, which was owing to the rashness of the besiegers.
The English were at that time commanded by one of the most extraordinary men ever produced by that country, so fruitful in proud, valiant, and whimsical minds. This was the earl of Peterborough, a man who, in every respect, resembled those heroes with whose exploits the imagination of the Spaniards has filled so many books. At fifteen years of age he left London, to go and make war against the Moors in Africa; at twenty he was the first who set on foot the revolution in England, and went over to the prince of Orange; but, lest the true reason of his voyage should be suspected, he took passage for America, and then went over to The Hague in a Dutch vessel. He parted with all his fortune more than once. He was now carrying on the war in Spain almost at his own expense, and maintained the archduke and all his household. It was this extraordinary man, who, with the prince of Hesse-Darmstadt, was laying siege to Barcelona. He proposed to the prince to make a sudden attack on the intrenchments which covered Fort Montjoie and the town. These intrenchments were carried, sword in hand; the prince of Darmstadt fell in the attack. A bomb falling upon a magazine of powder in the fort, blew it up. The fort was taken, and the town thereupon capitulated. The viceroy came to one of the gates of the town to confer with Lord Peterborough; but the articles were not yet signed, when their ears were suddenly struck with loud cries and shrieks. “You have betrayed us, my lord,” said the viceroy to Peterborough; “we made a fair capitulation, and there your English have entered the city over the ramparts, and are killing, robbing, and plundering everyone.” “You are mistaken,” replied Lord Peterborough, “it must certainly be the prince of Darmstadt’s troops. There is no other way left to save your town, but to let me enter immediately with my English. I will make everything quiet, and return again to the gate to sign the capitulation.” He spoke this with an air of truth and grandeur that, added to the present danger, entirely persuaded the governor, who immediately let him enter. He flew through the streets with his officers, where he presently found the Germans and Catalans busy in plundering the houses of the principal citizens; he drove them off, and made them quit their booty. After this he met with the duchess of Popoli in the hands of some soldiers, who were going to dishonor her; he took her from them, and delivered her to her husband. At length, having made everything quiet, he returned to the gate according to his promise, and signed the capitulation. The Spaniards were confounded to find such magnanimity in the English, whom the populace had always been taught to look upon as merciless barbarians, because they were heretics.
To the loss of Barcelona succeeded the mortification of a fruitless attempt to retake it. Philip V., though he had the greater part of Spain in his interest, had neither generals, engineers, nor hardly soldiers. The count of Toulouse returned to block up the harbor with twenty-five ships of war, the whole remains of the French navy; Marshal de Tessé formed the siege by land with thirty-one squadrons of horse, and thirty-seven battalions of foot; but the English fleet appearing, that of France was obliged to retire, and de Tessé raised the siege with precipitation, May 2, 1706, leaving an immense quantity of provisions behind him in his camp, and one thousand five hundred wounded to the mercy of Lord Peterborough. These were heavy losses; and it was hard to say whether it had cost France more to conquer Spain than it did now to assist it. Nevertheless, the grandson of Louis XIV. still kept his ground, through the affection of the Castilians, whose greatest pride is their fidelity, and who, on this occasion, continued firm to the choice they had made.
In Italy affairs wore a better aspect; Louis was avenged on the duke of Savoy; the duke of Vendôme had, in the beginning, repulsed Prince Eugene with some glory, in the battle of Cassano, near the Adda; this proved a bloody day, and one of those drawn battles for which both sides sing Te Deum, and that serve only to destroy men without advancing the affairs of either party. After the battle of Cassano he gained a complete victory at Cassinato, on April 19, 1706, in the absence of Prince Eugene; and that prince, arriving next day, saw another detachment of his army entirely routed; in short, the allies were obliged to give ground everywhere before the duke of Vendôme. Turin alone remained to be taken; they were already on the march to invest it, and there appeared no possibility of relieving it. Marshal Villars pushed the prince of Baden in Germany. Villeroi, with an army of eighty thousand men in Germany, hoped to indemnify himself on Marlborough for the ill success he had met with against Prince Eugene. His too great confidence in his own abilities proved now more fatal than ever to France.
Marshal Villeroi’s army was encamped near the river Mehaigne, by the head of the little Ghette; his centre was at Ramillies, a village since as famous as that of Blenheim. It was in his power to have avoided a battle: he was advised to do so by his general officers; but a blind passion for glory prevailed over every other consideration. It is said that the disposition he made for the battle was such that everyone of the least experience foresaw the fatal consequence. His centre was composed of newly raised troops, neither complete nor acquainted with military discipline. He left the baggage between the lines, and posted his left wing behind a morass, as if he intended to prevent it from coming near the enemy.
On May 23, 1706, Marlborough, who observed all these mistakes with a careful eye, drew up his army in such a manner as to take advantage of them; he perceived that the left wing of the French army could not come up to attack his right; he, therefore, made drafts from that part of his army, in order to fall on the enemy’s centre, at Ramillies, with a superior force. Monsieur de Gassion, the lieutenant-general, observing these movements, cried out to the marshal: “You are undone, sir, if you do not instantly change the order of battle. Make a draft from your left wing, that you may have an equal force to oppose the enemy. Close your lines more. If you lose a minute, you are irrecoverably lost.” This salutary advice was backed by several of the other officers; but the marshal would not believe them. When Marlborough began the attack, he found the army drawn up in the very manner in which he himself would have posted it for a defeat. This was publicly declared through all France, and history is partly a relation of the opinions of men; but may it not be alleged that the troops of the confederates were better disciplined, and that the confidence they had in their generals, and their past successes, inspired them with superior boldness? Were there not some of the French regiments who did not do their duty? And do we not know that those battalions who can best stand fire decide the destiny of states? The French army did not maintain its ground for half an hour; at Höchstädt the fight lasted for eight hours, and the French killed over eight thousand men; but, at the battle of Ramillies, they killed only two thousand five hundred. The defeat was general; the French lost twenty thousand men, together with the honor of their nation, and every hope of recovering the advantage. Bavaria and Cologne had been lost by the battle of Blenheim, and all Spanish Flanders was now lost by this of Ramillies; Marlborough entered victorious into Antwerp and Brussels, took Ostend, and Menin surrendered to him.
Marshal Villeroi, in despair, did not dare to acquaint the king with this defeat; he waited five days before despatching a courier. At length he wrote a confirmation of this news, which had already filled the court of France with consternation; and when he returned to Versailles to present himself to the king, that monarch, instead of reproaching him, only said: “Monsieur le maréchal, people at our time of life are not fortunate.”
The king immediately sent to Italy for the duke of Vendôme, where he thought his presence not necessary, in order to replace Villeroi in Flanders, and repair, if possible, his disgrace. He still entertained hopes, and with just reason, that the taking of Turin would make him amends for all these losses. Prince Eugene was at too great a distance to come to its relief; he was on the other side the Adige, and a long chain of intrenchments that lined the river on this side seemed to make a passage impracticable. Forty-six squadrons and a hundred battalions formed the defence of this great city.
The duke de la Feuillade, who commanded this army, was the gayest and most amiable man in the kingdom; and, though son-in-law of the minister, he was the darling of the people; he was a son of that marshal de la Feuillade who erected the statue of Louis XIV. in the square des Victoires. He appeared to have as much courage as his father; the same ambition; the same magnificence; and more understanding. He expected the staff of marshal of France as a reward for his taking Turin. Chamillard, his father-in-law, who loved him tenderly, had left nothing undone to secure him success. The imagination stands appalled at the detail of the preparations made for this siege. Those readers who have it not in their power to inform themselves of these matters, may perhaps not be displeased to meet here with an account of this immense and fruitless undertaking.
There were a hundred and forty pieces of cannon, and it is to be observed, that each large cannon, mounted on its carriage, costs about two thousand crowns; one hundred and ten thousand balls, one hundred and six thousand cartridges of one form, and three hundred thousand of another; twenty-one thousand bomb-shells, twenty-seven thousand seven hundred hand grenades, fifteen thousand sandbags, thirty thousand pioneering tools, and twelve hundred thousand pounds of powder, besides lead, iron, tin, cordage, with everything proper for the miners, sulphur, saltpetre, and implements of all kinds. It is certain that the expense of all these preparations for destruction was more than sufficient to have founded a numerous colony, and put it into a flourishing condition. Every siege of a great town requires the same prodigious expense, and yet when a little village is to be repaired at home, it is neglected.
The duke de la Feuillade, full of ardor and activity, inferior to no one in undertakings where courage alone was required, but incapable of conducting those that called for art, reflection, and time, hurried the siege against all rules. Marshal Vauban, the only general perhaps who loved his country better than himself, had proposed to the duke de la Feuillade to come and direct the siege as an engineer, and to serve in his army as a volunteer; but the pride of la Feuillade made him take this offer for insolence, concealed beneath the appearance of modesty, and was piqued that the best engineer in France should presume to give him advice. He wrote back to him, in a letter which I have seen: “I hope to take Turin by Cohorn.” This Cohorn was the Vauban of the allies, an excellent engineer, and a good general, who had taken several places that had been fortified by Vauban. After such a letter it was necessary to take Turin; but having begun the attack by the citadel, which was the strongest part, and the city not being completely surrounded, an opening was left for men or provisions to be thrown in, or for the duke of Savoy to sally out. In short, the greater impetuosity the duke de la Feuillade showed in his repeated and fruitless attacks, the more tedious was the siege.
The duke of Savoy came out of the town with some squadrons of horse, in order to amuse the duke de la Feuillade. The latter immediately quitted the direction of the siege to run after the prince, who, being better acquainted with the ground, baffled his pursuit. Thus la Feuillade missed the duke, and the business of the siege suffered by it.
All our historians, almost to a man, assert, that the duke de la Feuillade had no intention of taking Turin, and pretend that he had sworn to the duchess of Burgundy to respect her father’s capital; they likewise tell us that this princess prevailed upon Madame de Maintenon, to cause such measures to be taken as would save the town. It is certain that almost all the officers in this army were for a long time persuaded of the truth of this; but it was only one of those popular rumors which are the disgrace of the novelist, and the dishonor of the historian; besides, how contradictory it was, that the general who would not take Turin should endeavor to seize on the person of the duke of Savoy!
From May 13 till June 20 the duke of Vendôme had been posted on the banks of the Adige, to cover this siege, and thought himself competent, with seventy battalions and sixty squadrons, to stop all the passages against Prince Eugene.
The imperial general was in want of men and money. The mercers’ company of London loaned him about six millions of our livres; he then sent for a supply of men from the circles of the empire. The slowness of these reinforcements might have proved the ruin of Italy; but the slowness of the siege of Turin was still greater.
Vendôme was already appointed to go and repair the losses in Flanders; but, before he left Italy, he suffered Prince Eugene to cross the Adige, to pass the White Canal, and even the Po itself, a river larger, and in some places more difficult of passage than the Rhine; and before he himself left the banks of the Po, he saw Prince Eugene in a condition to advance even to Turin. Thus he left affairs in the most critical state in Italy, while in Flanders, Germany, and Spain, they appeared desperate.
The duke of Vendôme then went to Mons to assemble Villeroi’s scattered forces; and the duke of Orleans, nephew of Louis XIV., was sent to command his army on the banks of the Po. He found these troops in as much disorder as if they had suffered a defeat. Eugene had passed the Po in sight of Vendôme; he now crossed the Tanaro in view of the duke of Orleans, took Sarpi, Correggio, and Reggio; stole a march on the French, and at length joined the duke of Savoy near Asti. All that the duke of Orleans could do was to march and join la Feuillade in his camp before Turin. Prince Eugene followed with the utmost diligence. The duke of Orleans had now two alternatives, either to wait for Prince Eugene in the investing lines, or to march and meet him while he was yet on the other side of Veillane. He called a council of war, at which were present Marshal Marsin, who had lost the battle of Blenheim, the duke de la Feuillade, Albergoti, St. Fremont, and other lieutenant-generals, to whom he thus addressed himself: “Gentlemen, if we remain in our lines we lose the battle. The lines of circumvallation are above five leagues in length; it will be impossible for us to line all these intrenchments. On one hand here is the regiment of marines, that is not above two men deep; and, on the other hand, there are many places left entirely naked. The Doire, which runs through our camp, will prevent our men from marching readily to the assistance of one another; besides, when the French know they are attacked, they lose one of their principal advantages, that impetuosity and instantaneous ardor which so frequently decide the fate of battles. Believe me, it is to our interest to march directly to the enemy.” The lieutenant-generals immediately cried out, one and all: “Let us march.” Then Marshal Marsin drew the king’s order out of his pocket, which left everything to his decision in case of an action, and it was his choice to remain in the lines.
The duke of Orleans was not a little incensed to find that he was sent to the army only as a prince of the blood, and not as a general; however, he was obliged to follow Marsin’s advice, and made the necessary preparations for this disadvantageous action.
The enemy seemed at first to intend to make several attacks at once; and the variety of their movements threw the French camp into confusion. The duke of Orleans proposed one thing, Marsin and la Feuillade another; they disputed, and concluded upon nothing; till at length they suffered the enemy to pass the Doire, and advance in eight columns, each twenty-five men deep. There was an immediate necessity of opposing them with battalions of equal thickness.
Albergoti, who was posted at a distance from the main army, on the Capucins hill, had twenty thousand men with him, and only a body of the enemy’s militia to oppose, who did not dare to attack. They sent from the camp for a detachment of twelve thousand men; but he said that he could not weaken his division, and gave some specious reasons. Time was lost in these altercations. Prince Eugene attacked the intrenchments, and in two hours forced them, on Sept. 7, 1706. The duke of Orleans was wounded, and had retired to have his wound dressed; but he had scarcely gotten to the surgeon’s tent when word was brought him that all was lost, that the enemy was master of the camp, and that the defeat was general. Nothing remained but immediate flight; the trenches were abandoned, and the whole army dispersed. All the baggage, provisions, and ammunition, together with the military chest, fell into the hands of the conquerors. Marshal Marsin himself was wounded in the thigh, and made prisoner. One of the duke of Savoy’s surgeons cut off his thigh, and he died a few minutes after the operation. Sir Paul Methuen, ambassador from England to the court of Turin, the most generous and brave man that his country had ever employed in her embassies, fought by the duke of Savoy’s side during the whole action. He was present when Marshal Marsin was taken prisoner, and was near him in his last moments; and he told me that the marshal, when he was dying, spoke to him in these very terms: “Be persuaded, sir, that it was contrary to my judgment that we waited for you in our lines.” These words seem positively to contradict what passed at the council of war, and may, nevertheless, be true; for Marsin, when he took leave of the king at Versailles, represented to his majesty that it would be proper to march and attack the enemy, in case they should appear to relieve Turin; but Chamillard, intimidated by so many former defeats, had afterward decided that the army should wait in the lines, and not offer battle: and this order given at Versailles occasioned the defeat of sixty thousand men.
The French had not more than two thousand men killed in this engagement; but we have already seen that a panic does more than even slaughter. The impossibility of finding subsistence, which would make an army retire after a victory, brought back the troops to Dauphiny, after their defeat. Everything was in such disorder that the count of Medavy-Grancei, who was at that time in Mantua with a body of troops, and beat the imperialists at Castiglione, on Sept. 9, 1706, under the command of the prince of Hesse, afterward king of Sweden, gained only a fruitless victory, though it was complete. In a word, the duchies of Milan, Mantua, Piedmont, and lastly the kingdom of Naples, were all lost within a very little time of one another.
LOSSES OF THE FRENCH AND SPANIARDS CONTINUED—LOUIS XIV. HUMBLED; HIS PERSEVERANCE AND RESOURCES—BATTLE OF MALPLAQUET.
The battle of Höchstadt, or Blenheim, cost Louis XIV. a fine army, and the whole country from the Danube to the Rhine; and the elector of Bavaria all his dominions. All Flanders was lost to the very gates of Lille, by the fatal day of Ramillies; and the defeat at Turin drove the French out of Italy, which had always happened to them in every war since the time of Charlemagne. They had still some troops left in the duchy of Milan, and the little victorious army under the count of Medavy. They were also still in possession of some strong places. They offered to give up all these to the emperor, provided he would permit these troops, which amounted to about fifteen thousand men, to retire unmolested. The emperor accepted of the proposition, and the duke of Savoy gave his assent. Thus the emperor, with a dash of his pen, became peaceable possessor of Italy. The kingdom of Naples and Sicily was guaranteed to him, and everything that had formerly been feudal was now treated as subject to a supreme power. He imposed a tax of one hundred and fifty thousand pistoles on Tuscany; forty thousand on the duchy of Mantua; and Parma, Modena, Lucca, and Genoa, notwithstanding they were free states, were included in these impositions.
The emperor, who had all these advantages on his side, was not that Leopold, the ancient rival of Louis XIV., who, under a show of moderation, had secretly cherished the most ambitious views. It was the fiery, sprightly, and passionate Joseph, his eldest son, who was not so good a soldier as his father. If ever there was an emperor who seemed formed to enslave Germany, it was this Joseph; his dominions stretched beyond the Alps, he laid the pope under contribution, and, by his sole authority, in 1706, had the electors of Bavaria and Cologne put under the ban of the empire, and then stripped them of their dominions. He kept Bavaria’s children in prison, and took away from them even their name. Their father had nothing left but to retire to France and the Low Countries, afterward, in 1712; Philip V. ceded to him all Spanish Flanders. If he could have kept this province, it would have been a better settlement for him than even Bavaria, and have freed him from his subjection to the house of Austria; but he could get possession only of the cities of Luxemburg, Namur, and Charleroi, the rest being in the hands of the victors. Everything now seemed to threaten Louis XIV., who had so lately been the terror of all Europe. There was nothing to oppose the duke of Savoy’s entering France. England and Scotland had lately become one kingdom, by the union; or, rather, Scotland, now a province of England, increased the power of its ancient rival. In 1706 and 1707 all the enemies of France seemed to have acquired new strength, and that kingdom to be on the verge of ruin. She was assailed on all sides, both by sea and land. Of the formidable fleets which Louis XIV. had raised, scarcely twenty-five ships were left remaining. Strasburg still continued to be the barrier town toward Germany; but by the loss of Landau, all Alsace lay exposed. Provence was threatened with an invasion by sea and land, and the losses already sustained in Flanders made us tremble for what was left; and yet, notwithstanding all these disasters, the body of the kingdom had not yet been attacked; and, unsuccessful as the war had been, we only lost what we had before conquered.
Louis XIV. still opposed his enemies; and though beaten almost everywhere, he continued to resist, protect, and even attack on all sides. But affairs were as unsuccessful in Spain as in Italy, Germany, and Flanders. It is said that the siege of Barcelona was still worse conducted than that of Turin.
The count of Toulouse had hardly made his appearance with his fleet, when he was obliged to sail back again. Barcelona was relieved, the siege raised, and the French, after having lost half their army, were forced, for want of provisions, to march back into Navarre, a little kingdom that they kept from the Spaniards, and of which our kings take the title by a custom that seems beneath their dignity.
To these disasters was added yet another, which seemed to be the finishing stroke. The Portuguese, together with a body of English, under the command of Lord Galloway, a Frenchman, formerly Count de Ruvigni, lately created a peer of Ireland, took every place they came to and had advanced even into the province of Estremadura; while the duke of Berwick, an Englishman, who commanded the troops of France and Spain, in vain attempted to stop their progress.
Philip V., uncertain of his fate, was in Pampeluna; while his competitor, Charles, was increasing his party, and augmenting his forces in Catalonia.
He was master of Aragon, the province of Valencia, Cartagena, and part of the province of Granada. The English took Gibraltar for themselves, and gave him Minorca, Ivica, and Alicant: besides, the road to Madrid was open to him; and Lord Galloway entered that city without any resistance, and proclaimed the archduke Charles king on June 26, 1706; a single detachment sent from the army proclaimed him in Toledo. In short, Philip’s affairs seemed so desperate that Marshal Vauban, the first of engineers, and the best of citizens, a man continually engaged in schemes, some useful, others impracticable, and all of them singular, actually proposed to the French court to send Philip over to America to reign there. In this case all the Spaniards in Philip’s interest would have left their country to follow him. Spain would have been left a prey to civil factions. The French would have had the whole trade of Peru and Mexico, and France would have been aggrandized even by the misfortunes of Louis XIV.’s family. This project was actually under consideration at Versailles; but the perseverance of the Castilians, and the oversights of the enemy, preserved the crown upon Philip’s head. The people loved him as the king of their choice; and his queen, the duke of Savoy’s daughter, had gained their affections by the pains she took to please them; by an intrepidity above her sex, and an active perseverance under misfortunes. She went in person from city to city, animating the minds of her subjects, rousing their zeal, and receiving the donations which they brought in on all sides; so that in three weeks’ time she remitted her husband more than two hundred thousand crowns. Not one of the grandees who had taken the oath of fidelity proved false. When Lord Galloway proclaimed the archduke in Madrid, the people cried out, “Long live King Philip;” and at Toledo they mutinied, and put to flight the officers who were going to proclaim Charles.
The Spaniards had till then made very few efforts in support of their king; but when they saw him thus distressed, they exerted themselves in a surprising manner; and on this occasion showed an example of courage quite the reverse of that of other nations, who generally set out in a vigorous manner, but shrink back at last. It is very difficult to impose a king upon a nation against its will. The Portuguese, English, and Austrians that were in Spain were miserably harassed wherever they came, suffered much for want of provisions, and were guilty of errors almost unavoidable in a strange country; so that they were beaten piecemeal. In short, Philip V., three months after his leaving Madrid like a fugitive, entered it again in triumph, and was received with as much joy and acclamation as his rival had met with coldness and aversion.
Louis XIV. redoubled his efforts when he saw the Spaniards bestir themselves; and while he was obliged to provide for the safety of the seacoasts of the Western Ocean and the Mediterranean, by stationing militia all along shore; though he had one army in Flanders, another at Strasburg, a body of troops in Navarre, and one in Roussillon, he sent a fresh reinforcement to Marshal Berwick in Castile.
It was with these troops, seconded by the Spaniards, that Berwick gained the important battle of Almanza—April 25, 1707—in which he beat Galloway. Neither Philip nor the archduke was present at this action, on which the famous earl of Peterborough, who was singular in everything, observed: “It is excellent, indeed, to fight against one another for them.” The duke of Orleans, who was to have the command in Spain, and who was very desirous of being present, did not arrive till the day after the battle; however, he made all possible advantage of the victory, by taking several places, and among others Lérida, the rock on which the great Condé had split.
On the other hand, Marshal Villars, now replaced at the head of the armies in Germany, because the government could not do without him, made amends for the fatal defeat at Hochstädt. He forced the enemy’s lines at Stollhofen, on the other side the Rhine, dispersed their whole body, levied contributions for fifty leagues round, and advanced as far as the Danube. This momentary success gave a better face to affairs on the frontiers of Germany; but in Italy all was lost. The kingdom of Naples, entirely defenceless, and accustomed to a change of masters, was under the yoke of the conquerors; and the pope, unable to refuse a passage to the German troops through his dominions, saw, without daring to murmur, the emperor make him his vassal against his will. It is a strong instance of the force of received opinions, and the power of custom, that Naples may always be seized upon without consulting the pope, and yet the possessor is always obliged to do him homage for it.
While the grandson of Louis XIV. was thus deprived of Naples, the grandfather was on the point of losing Provence and Dauphiny. The duke of Savoy and Prince Eugene had already entered those provinces by the narrow pass of Tenda; and Louis XIV. had the mortification of seeing that very duke of Savoy, who a twelvemonth before had hardly anything left but his capital, and Prince Eugene, who had been brought up at his court, on the point of stripping him of Toulon and Marseilles.
Toulon was besieged, and in danger of being taken; the English fleet lay before the harbor, and bombarded the town. A little more diligence, precaution, and unanimity, would have carried Toulon. Marseilles, then left defenceless, could have made no resistance, and France seemed likely to lose two provinces; but what is probable seldom happens. There was time to send relief; a detachment had been made from Marshal Villars’ army, as soon as these provinces were threatened; and the advantages in Germany were made to give way to the safety of a part of France. That part of the country by which the enemy entered was dry, barren, and hilly; provisions were scarce, and a retreat difficult. A sickness, which made great havoc in the enemy’s army, proved favorable to Louis XIV. The siege of Toulon was raised, and soon afterward the enemy evacuated Provence, and Dauphiny was out of danger; so seldom does an invasion prove successful, unless there is an intelligence with the people of the country. Charles V. failed in the same design, and of late days the queen of Hungary’s troops have been disappointed in their attempts against this country.
However, this invasion, which cost the allies so dear, proved of no small importance to the French. The country had been spoiled, and our forces divided.
Europe little expected that, while the French nation thus exhausted, thought itself happy in having escaped an invasion, Louis XIV. was sufficiently great and fruitful in expedients to attempt an invasion in Great Britain, in spite of the weak state of his maritime forces and the powerful fleets of the English that covered the seas. This expedition was proposed by some of the Scotch, in the interest of James III. The success was doubtful; but Louis thought the very attempt sufficiently glorious; and actually declared afterward, that he was determined as much by this motive as his political interest.
To carry the war into Great Britain at that time, when we could with difficulty support the burden of it in so many other places, and to endeavor to replace the son of James II. on the throne of Scotland, at least while we could hardly support Philip V. on that of Spain, was a noble idea, and after all, not quite destitute of probability.
Those of the Scotch who had not sold themselves to the court of London, were grieved to see themselves reduced to a state of dependence on the English, and privately with one accord called upon the offspring of their ancient kings, who in his infancy had been driven from the throne of three kingdoms, and whose very birth had been contested by his enemies. They promised to join him with thirty thousand men, if he would only land at Edinburgh with some few men from France.
Louis XIV., who in his time of prosperity, had made such efforts in behalf of the father, now did the same for the son, though his fortunes were in the decline. Eight ships of war and seventy transports were got ready at Dunkirk, and six thousand men put on board, in March, 1708. The count de Gacé, afterward Marshal Matignon, had the command of the troops, and the chevalier de Forbin Janson, one of the best sailors of his time, had that of the fleet. Everything seemed favorable for their design: there were but three thousand regular troops in Scotland, England was left defenceless, its soldiers being all engaged in Flanders, under the duke of Marlborough. The difficulty was to get there; for the English had a fleet of fifty ships of war cruising at sea. This expedition was exactly like the late one in 1744, in favor of the grandson of James II. It was discovered by the government, and impeded by several unlucky accidents; insomuch that the English ministry had time to send for twelve battalions out of Flanders. Several of the most suspected persons were seized in Edinburgh. At length, the Pretender having showed himself on the Scottish coast, and not seeing the signals which had been agreed upon, nothing was left but to turn back again. The chevalier Forbin landed him safely at Dunkirk, and by his prudent retreat saved the French fleet; but the expedition was entirely frustrated. Matignon was the only one who gained anything on this occasion: having opened his orders after he came out to sea, he there found a patent for marshal of France, a reward for what he meant to do, but could not perform.
There cannot be a more absurd notion than that of some historians, who pretend that Queen Anne had a correspondence with her brother in this affair. It is absolute folly to suppose that she would invite her competitor for the crown to come and dethrone her. They have confounded the time, and imagined that she favored him because she afterward looked upon him in private as her successor: but what prince would choose to be driven from the throne by his successor?
While the French affairs were every day growing worse and worse, the king thought that, by sending the duke of Burgundy, his grandson, to head the army in Flanders, the presence of the heir presumptive to the crown would excite the emulation of the troops, which began to droop. This prince was of a resolute and intrepid disposition, pious, just, and learned. He was formed to command wise men: he loved mankind, and endeavored to make them happy. Though well versed in the art of war, he considered that art rather as the scourge of human kind, and an unhappy necessity, than the source of real glory. This philosophical prince was the person sent to oppose the duke of Marlborough, and they gave him the duke of Vendôme for an assistant. It now happened, as it too frequently does: the experienced officer was not sufficiently listened to, and the prince’s counsel frequently carried it over the general’s reasons. Hence arose two parties; whereas, in the enemy’s army, there was but one, that of the public good. Prince Eugene was at that time on the Rhine; but when he and Marlborough were together, they had but one opinion.
The duke of Burgundy had the superiority in numbers; France, which Europe looked upon as exhausted, had furnished him with an army of one hundred thousand men; and the allies at that time had not quite eighty thousand. He had, moreover, the advantage of sympathy on his side, from a country which had been so long under the Spanish dominion, was tired out with Dutch garrisons, and where a great part of the inhabitants were inclined to favor Philip V. By his correspondence in Ghent and Ypres, he became master of these two places; but the schemes of the soldier soon rendered fruitless those of the politician. The disagreement in the council of war already began to distract their operations; so that now they began to march toward the Dender, and two hours afterward turned back again toward the Scheldt, to go to Oudenarde. In this manner they lost time, while the duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene were making the best of theirs, and acted in concert with each other. The French were routed near Oudenarde on July 11, 1708. This was not a great battle; but it proved a fatal retreat. Error was added to terror. The regiments were suffered to wander at random without receiving any orders, and more than four thousand men were made prisoners on the road, by the enemy’s army, only a few miles from the field of battle.
The army, in despondency, retreated without any order, part under Ghent, part under Tournay, and part under Ypres, and quietly suffered Prince Eugene, now returned from the Rhine, to lay siege to Lille with an inferior army.
To sit down before so large and well-fortified a town as Lille without being master of Ghent, obliged to send for provisions and ammunition as far as Ostend; and these to be brought over a narrow causeway, at the hazard of being every moment surprised, was what Europe called a rash action; but which the misunderstanding and irresolution that prevailed in the French army rendered very excusable, and was justified in the end by the success. The grand convoys which might have been intercepted, arrived safe. The troops that escorted them, and which should have been defeated by a superior number, proved victorious. The duke of Burgundy’s army, that might have attacked that of the enemy before it was complete, remained inactive; and Lille was taken, to the astonishment of all Europe, who thought the duke of Burgundy in a condition to besiege Marlborough and Eugene, rather than those generals to besiege Lille. Marshal Bouflers defended the place nearly four months.
The inhabitants became so familiar with the noise of cannon, and all the horror that attended a siege, that public diversions were carried on as in time of peace; and though a bomb one day fell very near the theatre, it did not interrupt the entertainment.
Marshal Bouflers had made such judicious dispositions that the inhabitants of this great city remained perfectly secure in his vigilance. The defence he made gained him the esteem even of his enemies, the hearts of the inhabitants, and a reward from the king. Those Dutch historians, or rather writers, who affect to blame him should remember that, to contradict the public voice, a person must have been a witness, and an intelligent one, or prove what he advances.
In the meantime, the army that had looked on while Lille was taken, began to diminish by little and little, and suffered Ghent to be taken next, and then Bruges, and all the posts one after another. Few campaigns have proved more fatal than this. The officers in the duke of Vendôme’s interest laid all these faults to the duke of Burgundy’s council, who blamed them on the duke of Vendôme. All minds were soured with misfortune. One of the duke of Burgundy’s courtiers said one day to the duke of Vendôme: “Thus it is, never to go to mass; you see how misfortunes follow us.” “Do you think then,” replied the duke of Vendôme, “that Marlborough goes there oftener than we?” The emperor Joseph was puffed up with the rapid successes of the allied army; he saw himself absolute in the empire, master of Landau, and the road to Paris in a manner open, by the taking of Lille. A party of Dutch soldiers had the boldness to advance as far as Versailles, from Courtrai, and carried off the king’s first equerry from under the castle windows, thinking it was the dauphin, the duke of Burgundy’s father. Paris was filled with terror; and the emperor entertained as strong hopes of settling his brother Charles on the throne of Spain as Louis XIV. had of keeping his grandson in possession of it.
This succession, which the Spaniards had wanted to render indivisible, was already split into three parts. The emperor had taken Lombardy and the kingdom of Naples to himself. His brother Charles was still in possession of Catalonia, and a part of Aragon. The emperor at that time obliged Pope Clement XI. to acknowledge the archduke for king of Spain. This pope, who was said to resemble St. Peter, because he owned, denied, repented, and wept, had, after the example of his predecessor, acknowledged Philip V., and was attached to the house of Bourbon. The emperor, to punish him, declared several fiefs, which at that time were held from the popes, subject to the empire, particularly Parma and Placentia; laid waste several lands belonging to the holy see, and seized on the town of Comacchio. In former times, a pope would have excommunicated any emperor who had attempted to dispute with him the most trifling privileges; and that excommunication would have driven the emperor from his throne: but the power of this see was now reduced within its proper bounds. Clement XI., at the instigation of France, had ventured to unsheathe the sword; but he had no sooner taken up arms than he repented of it. He perceived that the Romans were incapable of wielding the sword under a sacerdotal government. He therefore laid down his arms, left Comacchio in the emperor’s hands as a pledge of his future peaceable conduct, and consented to write to the archduke with the style of “Our dearest son, the Catholic king in Spain.” A fleet of English ships in the Mediterranean and a German army in his dominions soon made him glad to write, “To our dearest son, Charles, king of Spain.” It was thought that this suffrage of the popes, though of no service in the German Empire, might have some effect on the Spanish populace, who had been made to believe that the archduke was unworthy to reign, because he was protected by heretics, who had taken Gibraltar.
There yet remained to the Spanish monarchy beyond the continent, the two islands of Sardinia and Sicily: an English fleet had taken Sardinia, and given it to the emperor; for the English were not willing that the archduke should have anything more than Spain. At that time they made treaties of partition with their arms. The conquests of Sicily they reserved for another time, choosing to employ their ships at sea in capturing Spanish galleons, rather than in conquering new territories for the emperor.
France was now as much humbled as Rome, and more in danger; resources began to fail, credit was at a stand, and the people, who had idolized their monarch in his prosperity, began to murmur against him when unfortunate.
A set of men to whom the ministry had sold the nation for a little ready money to supply the immediate call grew fat on the public calamity, and insulted the sufferings of the people by their luxurious manner of living. The money they had advanced was spent; and had it not been for the bold industry of certain traders, particularly those of St. Malo, who made a voyage to Peru, and brought home thirty millions, half of which they lent to the government, Louis XIV. would not have had money to pay his troops. The war had ruined the kingdom, and the merchants saved it; this was the case in Spain. The galleons which had escaped being taken by the English helped to support Philip V., but this resource, which was only of a few months’ duration, did not facilitate the raising of recruits. Chamillard, who had been made treasurer and secretary of war, resigned the latter post in favor of M. Voisin, afterward chancellor, who had formerly been an intendant on the frontiers. The armies were as badly supplied as before, nor did merit meet with more encouragement. Chamillard afterward resigned the management of the treasury; but Desmarets, who succeeded him, was not able to restore a ruined credit. The severe winter of 1709 completed the despair of the nation. The olive trees, which bring in a great deal of money in the south of France, were all destroyed; almost all the fruit-trees were killed by the severe frost; there were no hopes of a harvest; and there was very little corn in the granaries; and what could be bought at a very great distance, from the seaport towns of the Levant, and the coast of Barbary, was liable to be taken by the enemies’ fleets, to whom we had hardly any ships of war to oppose. The scourge of this dreadful winter was general all over Europe; but the enemies had more resources, especially the Dutch, who had been so long the factors for other nations, had magazines sufficiently stored to supply the strongest armies the allies could bring into the field, in a plentiful manner, while the French troops, diminished and disheartened, seemed ready to perish for want.
Louis XIV., who had already made some advances toward a peace, determined under these fatal circumstances to send his chief minister, the marquis Torci Colbert, to The Hague, assisted by the president Rouillé. This was a humbling step. They first met at Antwerp, with two burgomasters from Amsterdam, named Buis and Vanderhussen, who talked like conquerors, and returned to the ministers of the proudest of all princes all the arrogance with which they themselves had been treated in 1672.
The states-general had chosen no stadtholder since the death of King William; and the Dutch magistrates, who already began to call their families “the patrician families,” were so many petty kings. The four Dutch commissaries, who attended the army, behaved with the utmost insolence to more than thirty German princes, whom they maintained in their pay. “Send Holstein hither,” said they; “tell Hesse to come and speak to us.” In this manner did a set of merchants express themselves, who, all plain in their garb, and abstemious in their way of living, took a pleasure in trampling upon German haughtiness in their pay, and mortifying the pride of a king who had formerly been their conqueror. They were not contented with showing the world by these external marks of superiority, that power is the only real greatness, but they insisted on having ten towns in Flanders given them in sovereignty, and among others Lille, which was already in their hands; and Tournay, which was not yet taken, Thus the Dutch wanted to reap all the fruits of the war, not only at the expense of France, but also at that of the house of Austria, whose cause they had been fighting, in the same manner as the republic of Venice had formerly augmented its territories with those of its neighbors. The republican spirit is in the main fully as ambitious as the monarchial.
This plainly appeared a few months afterward; for when this shadow of a negotiation had vanished and the allied army had gained some fresh advantages, the duke of Marlborough, at that time more absolute in England than his royal mistress, having been gained over by the Dutch, concluded a treaty with the states-general in 1709, by which they were to keep possession of all the frontier towns which should be taken from the French; were to have garrisons in twenty fortresses in Flanders, to be maintained at the expense of the country, and to have Upper Guelders in perpetual sovereignty. By this treaty they would have become actual sovereigns of the seventeen provinces of the Netherlands, and have had supreme rule in Liège and Cologne. In this manner did they want to aggrandize themselves by the ruin even of their allies. They were full of these lofty projects when the chief minister of France came to them to ask for peace; we must not therefore be surprised at the disdainful reception he met with.
After these first steps of humiliation, Louis’s minister went to The Hague, where he received in his master’s name the last degree of insult. He there saw Prince Eugene, the duke of Marlborough, and the pensionary, Heinsius, who all three were for continuing the war—the prince, because it at once gratified his glory and his revenge; Marlborough, because he gained both reputation and immense riches, of which he was equally fond; the third, who was guided by the other two, looked upon himself as a Spartan humbling the pride of a Persian monarch. They proposed instead of peace a truce, and during that truce a full satisfaction for all their allies, without taking any notice of the king’s, provided the king should assist in driving his grandson from the throne of Spain, within two months; and that as a surety for his performance of the treaty, he should begin by ceding to the states-general forever, ten towns in Flanders, restore Strasburg and Breisach, and renounce the sovereignty of Alsace. Louis little expected, some years before, when he refused a company of horse to Prince Eugene, when Churchill was only a colonel in the English army, and the name of Heinsius was hardly known, that one day these three men should impose such terms upon him. The marquis de Torci took his leave without negotiating, and returned to carry the king the orders of his enemies. Louis XIV. now did what he had never before done toward his subjects. He justified his conduct in a circular letter, which he addressed to them, in which, after acquainting his people with the added burdens he was obliged to lay upon them, he endeavored to rouse their indignation, honor, and even pity. The politicians said that Torci went to The Hague in that suppliant manner, only to throw the whole blame upon the enemy, to justify Louis XIV. in the eyes of Europe, and animate the French to a just resentment; but the fact is that he went there purely to demand peace. The president Rouillé was left some few days at The Hague, to endeavor to get more favorable conditions; but all the answer he received to his remonstrances was an order from the states-general to leave Holland in twenty-four hours.
Louis XIV., when he heard the rigorous terms imposed upon him, said to Rouillé: “Well then, since I must make war, I would rather it should be against my enemies than my children.” He then made preparations to try his fortune once more in Flanders; the famine, which had laid waste the countries round, proved a resource for the war; those who wanted bread enlisted for soldiers. Many lands lay untilled; but we had an army. Marshal Villars, who had been sent the preceding year into Savoy, to command a few troops whose ardor was revived by his presence, and who had met with some little successes, was recalled into Flanders, as the person in whom his country placed all her hopes.
Marlborough had already taken Tournay; and with Prince Eugene, who had covered the siege, marched to invest Mons. Marshal Villars advanced to prevent them, having with him Marshal Bouflers, a senior officer, but who had desired to serve under him. Bouflers had a true affection for his king and country; he proved on this occasion—notwithstanding what has been said by a very sensible man—that there are virtues in a monarchical state, especially under a good master. There are doubtless as many as in a republic, with less enthusiasm perhaps, but with more of what is called honor.
As soon as the French advanced to oppose the investing of Mons, the allies on their side advanced to attack them near the wood of Blangies and the village of Malplaquet, Sept. 11, 1709.
The two armies consisted of about eighty thousand men each; but the allies had forty-two battalions more. The French brought eighty pieces of cannon into the field, the allies one hundred and forty. The duke of Marlborough commanded the right wing, composed of the English and German troops in English pay; Prince Eugene was in the centre; Tilli and the count of Nassau at the left, with the Dutch.
Marshal Villars took the command of the left wing of his army, and left the right to Marshal Bouflers; he had intrenched his army in haste, a method perhaps most suitable to his troops, that were inferior in numbers, and had been a long time unsuccessful, and consisted of one-half recruits; it was most suitable likewise to our condition at that time; as an entire defeat would have ruined the nation. Some historians have found fault with the disposition made by the marshal: “He should,” say they, “have passed a large hollow, instead of having it in his front.” Is it not being rather too discerning to judge thus from our closet of what passes on a field of battle?
All that I know is, that the marshal himself said, that the soldiers who had had no bread for a whole day, and had just had their allowance distributed among them, threw half of it away, to make the greater haste to come to action. There has not been for many ages a longer or more obstinate battle; none more bloody. I shall say nothing touching this action but what has been universally acknowledged. The enemies’ left wing, where the Dutch fought, was almost entirely cut to pieces; and we pursued them with fixed bayonets. Marlborough, at the right, made and withstood surprising efforts. Marshal Villars had occasion to thin his centre to oppose Marlborough; at that very instant the centre was attacked, the intrenchments which covered it were carried, the regiment of guards who defended them making no resistance. The marshal, in riding from his left wing to his centre, was wounded, and the day was lost; the field of battle was covered with the bodies of thirty thousand men, killed and dying.
The loss of the French in this battle did not amount to more than eight thousand men; the enemy left nearly twenty-one thousand killed and wounded, but the centre being forced, and the two wings cut off, those who had made the greatest slaughter lost the day.
Marshal Bouflers made a retreat in good order, with the assistance of the prince of Tingri-Montmorency, afterward Marshal Luxembourg, inheritor of the valor of his ancestors. The army retired between Quesnoy and Valenciennes, carrying with them several standards and colors they had taken from the enemy. Louis XIV. comforted himself with these spoils, and it was esteemed a victory to have disputed the day so long, and to have lost only the field of battle. Marshal Villars, at his return to court, assured the king that, if he had not been wounded, he should have gained the victory. I know the general was persuaded of this, but I know very few people besides who believe it.
It may seem surprising that an army which had destroyed nearly two-thirds more men than it lost itself should not endeavor to prevent those who had gained no other advantage but that of lying in the midst of their dead, from going to lay siege to Mons, The Dutch were fearful for the success of this enterprise, and hesitated for some time; but the conquered are frequently imposed upon, and disheartened, by the name of having lost the battle. Men never do all that they might do, and the soldier who is told he is beaten, fears to be beaten again. Thus Mons was besieged and taken, and all for the Dutch, who kept possession of this town, as they had done of Lille and Tournay.
LOUIS XIV. CONTINUES TO SOLICIT PEACE, AND TO DEFEND HIMSELF—THE DUKE OF VENDÔME SECURES THE KING OF SPAIN ON HIS THRONE.
The enemy not only continued thus advancing by degrees, and levelled all the barriers of France on this side, but they pretended with the assistance of the duke of Savoy, to surprise Franche-Comté, and penetrate at once by both ends to the heart of the kingdom. General Merci, who was charged with facilitating this enterprise, by entering into Upper Alsace by the city of Basel, was happily stopped near the isle of Newburg on the Rhine, by the count, afterward Marshal, Dubourg. By an unaccountable fatality, all those of the name of Merci have been as unsuccessful as esteemed. This one was defeated most completely. Nothing was undertaken on the side of Savoy, but much was apprehended in regard to Flanders; the domestic affairs of the kingdom were in so languid a state that the king once more solicited peace like a suppliant; he offered to acknowledge the archduke for king of Spain; to withdraw all assistance from his grandson, and leave him to his fate; to deliver up four places as securities; to restore Strasburg and Breisach; to resign the sovereignty of Alsace, reserving only the prefecture; to demolish all the fortified places between Basel and Philippsburg; to fill up the long formidable harbor of Dunkirk, and demolish its fortifications; and to leave Lille, Tournay, Ypres, Menin, Furnes, Condé, and Maubeuge, in the hands of the states-general. These were in part the articles proposed, to serve as a basis for the peace which he solicited.
The allies, determined to have the triumph of discussing the submissive proposals of Louis XIV., permitted his plenipotentiaries to come to the little town of Gertruydenberg, in the beginning of the year 1710, to present their master’s supplications. Louis made choice of Marshal d’Uxelles, a man of great coolness and taciturnity, and of a disposition rather prudent than elevated or bold; with him was joined Abbé, afterward cardinal, Polignac, one of the brightest wits, and most eloquent orators of his age, and of a most engaging person and address; but wit, prudence, and eloquence are of no service in a minister, when the master is unsuccessful. It is conquest that makes treaties. The ambassadors of Louis XIV. were rather confined in Gertruydenberg than received there. The deputies came to hear their proposals, which they transmitted to The Hague to Prince Eugene, the duke of Marlborough, and Count Zinzendorf, ambassador from the emperor. These proposals were almost always received with contempt. The plenipotentiaries were insulted by the most abusive libels, the work of French refugees, who were more inveterate enemies to the glory of Louis XIV. than even Prince Eugene or the duke of Marlborough.
Though the French plenipotentiaries carried their submission so far as to promise for the king, that he should furnish money to dethrone Philip V., they were not listened to. It was insisted upon as a preliminary, that Louis XIV. should engage alone to drive his grandson out of Spain by force of arms. This absurd piece of inhumanity arose from fresh successes.
While the allies were thus treating Louis XIV. like masters irritated against his pride and greatness, the city of Douay fell into their hands; and soon afterward Béthune, Aire, and St. Venant; and Lord Stair proposed to send parties to the gates of Paris.
The archduke’s army, commanded by Guy Staremberg, the nearest in military reputation to Prince Eugene of all the German generals, gained a complete victory near Saragossa, on Aug. 20, 1710, over that army in which Philip and his adherents had placed their hopes, and that was commanded by the marquis de Bay, an unfortunate general. Here again it was observed that the two rival kings, though within reach of their armies, were not present at this battle. Of all the princes for whom Europe was then up in arms, the duke of Savoy was the only one who fought his own battles. It was a melancholy consideration, that he could acquire his glory only by fighting against his two daughters, one of whom he endeavored to dethrone, in order to gain a small spot of ground in Lombardy, about which the emperor Joseph already began to make some difficulties, and of which he would have been stripped at the very first opportunity.
This emperor, who was successful everywhere, showed no moderation in his good fortune. By his own pure authority he dismembered Bavaria, and bestowed the fiefs thereof on his relatives and creatures. He despoiled the young duke of Mirandola of his dominions in Italy, and the princes of the empire maintained an army for him on the Rhine, without thinking that they were laboring to cement a power of which they stood in dread; so much did the old reigning hatred for the name of Louis XIV. occupy every mind, as if their chief interest had been concerned therein. Joseph had also the good fortune to suppress the rebellious Hungarians. The court of France had set up Prince Ragotski against him, who came armed with his own pretensions and those of his countrymen. Ragotski was beaten, his town taken, and his party ruined. Thus Louis XIV. was equally unfortunate abroad and at home, by sea and by land, in his public negotiations and his private intrigues.
It was believed by all Europe at that time, that the archduke Charles, brother of the fortunate Joseph, would reign without a competitor in Spain. Europe was threatened with a power more formidable than that of Charles V. and the English, so long the declared foes of the Austrian-Spanish branch, and the Dutch, its revolted slaves, were those who exerted themselves to establish it. Philip V., who had taken refuge in Madrid, quitted it again, and retired to Valladolid, while the archduke Charles made his entry as a conqueror.
The French king could no longer supply his grandson with aid; he had been obliged to do that partly through necessity which the allies had exacted of him at Gertruydenberg, to abandon the cause of Philip, by sending for those troops that were yet in Spain, for his own defence, being hardly able to make head against the powerful efforts of the enemy in Savoy, on the Rhine, and in Flanders, where the stress of the war chiefly lay.
Spain was in a still more deplorable situation than France. Almost all its provinces had been laid waste by its enemies and friends. It was attacked by Portugal. Its trade was destroyed. There was a general dearth throughout the kingdom; but this was more severely felt by the victors than by the vanquished, because the common people throughout this great country gave all in their power to Philip, for whom they had an affection, and refused everything to the Austrians. Philip had no longer a general or troops from France; the duke of Orleans, by whom his drooping fortune had been a little raised, instead of commanding his army, was his enemy. It is certain that, notwithstanding the affection the inhabitants of Madrid had for Philip, and the fidelity of the grandees and all Castile, he had still a powerful party against him in Spain. The Catalonians, a warlike and headstrong nation, were, to a man, obstinately attached to his rival. One-half of Aragon had likewise been gained over. One party of the people waited the outcome of affairs, and the other hated the archduke more than they loved Philip. The duke of Orleans, the namesake of Philip, disgusted with the Spanish ministry, and still more displeased with the princess Orsini, who governed affairs, began to think that he might secure for himself the country which he was sent to defend; and when Louis XIV. himself proposed to give up his grandson, and an abdication was already talked of in Spain, the duke of Orleans thought himself worthy of filling the throne which Philip V. would be obliged to resign. He had some pretensions to that place, which had been left unnoticed in the king of Spain’s will, and which his father had supported by a protest.
By means of his agents he made an agreement with some of the grandees, who engaged to place him on the throne, in case Philip V. should quit it. In this case, he would have found many of the Spaniards ready to enlist under the standard of a prince who was so complete a warrior. This scheme, had it succeeded, could not have displeased the maritime powers, as there would have been less apprehension of seeing the kingdoms of France and Spain united in one person, and fewer obstacles to the peace. The project was discovered at Madrid about the beginning of 1709, while the duke of Orleans was at Versailles, and his agents in Spain were imprisoned. Philip V. never forgave his cousin for thinking him capable of abdicating, and endeavoring to succeed him. In France the whole kingdom cried out against the duke of Orleans. The dauphin, father of Philip V., proposed in council to bring the offender to justice; but the king chose to pass in silence this abortive and pardonable scheme, rather than to punish a nephew, at the time that a grandson was on the verge of ruin.
In fine, about the time of the battle of Saragossa, the Spanish council and most of the grandees, finding they had no leader to oppose to Staremberg, whom they looked upon as a second Eugene, wrote in a body to Louis XIV. requesting him to send them the duke of Vendôme. This prince, who had retired to Anet, set out immediately, and his presence was as good as an army. The Spaniards were struck with the great reputation he had gained in Italy, which the unfortunate campaign of Lille had not been able to impair. His affability, openness, and liberality, which latter qualification he carried to a degree of profusion, and his love for his soldiers won him all hearts; the moment he set his foot in Spain there happened to him what had formerly happened to Bertrand du Guesclin; his name alone drew a crowd of volunteers. He wanted money; the corporations of the towns and villages, and the religious communities supplied him. The nation was seized with a spirit of enthusiasm. The scattered troops left after the battle of Saragossa assembled together under him at Valladolid, in August, 1710. Every place exerted itself in furnishing recruits. The duke of Vendôme, without allowing time for this fresh ardor to cool, went in pursuit of the conquerors, brought the king back to Madrid, obliged the enemy to retire toward the frontiers of Portugal, followed them thither, made his army swim the Tagus, took General Stanhope prisoner in Brihuega with five thousand English, came up with General Staremberg at Villaviciosa, and gave him battle the next day—Dec. 9, 1710. Philip V., who had not accompanied any of his former generals to the fight, animated with the duke of Vendôme’s spirit, put himself at the head of the right wing, while that general took the left. A complete victory was gained over the enemy; and, in less than four months, this great general who had been called in when things were at the last extremity, retrieved all, and secured the crown forever on the head of Philip V.
While the allies remained confounded at this surprising revolution, one of a more secret kind, though equally important, was preparing in England.
Sarah Jennings, duchess of Marlborough, governed Queen Anne, and the duke, her husband, governed the state. He had the treasury at his command, through the means of the lord high treasurer, Godolphin, whose son had married one of his daughters. His son-in-law, Sunderland, who was secretary of state, submitted everything in the cabinet to him, and the queen’s household, where his wife had an unlimited authority, was at his devotion. He was master of the army, while he had the disposal of all offices.
England was at that time divided between two parties, the Whigs and the Tories. The Whigs, at whose head he was, did everything that could contribute to his greatness; and the Tories had been forced to admire him in silence. It is not unworthy of history to add, that the duke and duchess were the two handsomest persons of their time; and that this advantage contributes not a little to impose on the multitude, when accompanied with dignities and honor.
The duke had more interest at The Hague than the pensionary; and had great influence in Germany, had always been successful as a negotiator and general, and enjoyed a more extensive share of power and reputation than had ever been the lot of any one private man. He could likewise strengthen his power by the immense riches he had acquired during his having command. I have heard his widow say that, after he had given fortunes to his four children, he had remaining, independent of any gifts from the crown, seventy thousand pounds a year clear money, which makes about one million five hundred thousand of our livres. Had not his frugality been equal to his greatness, he might have formed a party in the kingdom that Queen Anne could not easily have overthrown; and had his wife been a little more complaisant, the queen would never have broken her chains. But the duke could never get the better of his thirst for riches, nor the duchess of her capricious temper. The queen loved her with a tenderness that went even to submission, and a giving up of all will. In attachments of this nature, we generally find that dislike begins first on the side of the monarch: caprice, pride, and an abuse of superiority are the things which first make the yoke felt, and all these the duchess of Marlborough heaped upon her mistress with a heavy hand. The queen, who could not do without a favorite, turned her eyes on Lady Masham, one of the ladies of her bedchamber. The duchess could not conceal her jealousy; it broke out on a thousand occasions. A pair of gloves of a particular fashion which she refused the queen, and a jar of water that she let fall in her presence upon Lady Masham’s gown, by an affected mistake, changed the face of affairs in Europe. Matters grew warm between the two parties. The new favorite’s brother asked the duke for a regiment; the duke refused it, upon which the queen gave it to him herself. The Tories seized this opportunity to free the queen from her domestic slavery, humble the power of the duke, change the ministry, make peace, and if possible replace the Stuart family on the throne of England. If the disposition of the duchess would have allowed her to make some concessions, she might still have retained her power. The queen and she had been used to write to each other every day, under borrowed names: this mysterious familiarity always left the way open for a reconciliation; but the duchess made use of this resource only to make things worse. She wrote to the queen in the most insolent terms; and, among other expressions made use of the following: “Do me justice, and make me no answer.” She soon repented of what she had done, and went to ask pardon of the queen with tears in her eyes; but her majesty answered: “You have ordered me not to answer you, and I shall not answer you.” After this the breach was irreparable; the duchess appeared no more at court, and some time afterward, Sunderland, the duke’s son-in-law, was removed from the ministry, as the first step toward turning out Godolphin, and then the duke himself. In other kingdoms this is called a disgrace; in England it is only a change of affairs; but this was a change very difficult to be brought about. The Tories, though masters of the queen, were not of the kingdom; they found themselves obliged to have recourse to religion. At present there is little more religion in Great Britain than what is just sufficient to distinguish factions. The Whigs inclined to Presbyterianism. This was the faction that had dethroned James II., persecuted Charles II., and brought Charles I. to the block. The Tories were in the Episcopal interest, that favored the house of Stuart, and wanted to introduce the doctrine of passive obedience to kings, because the bishops hoped, by that means, to have more obedience paid to themselves. A clergyman was procured to preach up this doctrine in St. Paul’s cathedral, and to set forth, in the most odious light, the administration of the duke of Marlborough, and the measures of the party who had given the crown to King William; but notwithstanding that the queen secretly favored this preacher, she could not prevent his being silenced for three years by the two houses, assembled in Westminster hall, who ordered his sermon to be burned by the hands of the common hangman. She felt her want of power still more sensibly, in not daring to indulge the calls of blood in opening a way for her brother to that throne which the Whigs had barred against him. Those writers who say that Marlborough and his party fell the instant the queen ceased to support them with her favor, know nothing of the affairs of England. The queen, though now desirous of peace, did not dare to remove Marlborough from the command of her armies; and, in the spring of 1711, he was still pursuing his conquests over France, though in disgrace at his own court. A private agent from France was sent to London, to propose conditions of peace underhand; but the queen’s new ministry did not dare to accept them as yet.
A new event, as unforeseen as the others, completed this great work. The emperor Joseph died, April 17, 1711, and left the dominions of the house of Austria, and the German Empire, together with the pretensions to Spain and America, to his brother Charles, who was elected emperor some months afterward.
On the first news of his death, the prejudices which had put arms into the hands of so many nations began to be dissipated in England by the care of the new ministry. “The war,” said they, “was begun to prevent Louis XIV. from governing Spain, America, Lombardy, and the kingdom of Naples and Sicily, in the name of his grandson; why, then, should we endeavor to unite all these kingdoms in the family of Charles VI.? Why must the English nation exhaust its treasures? We have paid more to the war than Germany and Holland together. The expenses of this year alone amount to seven millions sterling; and is the nation to ruin itself for a cause it has no concern with, and to procure a part of Flanders for the Dutch, our rivals in trade?” All these arguments emboldened the queen, and opened the eyes of a great part of the nation, and a new parliament being called, the queen was at liberty to prepare matters for the peace of Europe.
But though she might do this privately, she could not as yet publicly break with her allies; so that while they were negotiating in the cabinet, Marlborough was carrying on the service in the field. He still continued advancing in Flanders, where he forced the lines that Marshal Villars had drawn from Montreuil to Valenciennes, took Bouchain, advanced as far as Quesnoy, and from thence was proceeding in September, 1711, toward Paris, which had not a single rampart to oppose him.
It was at this unfortunate period that the famous Duguay-Trouin, who had not as yet any rank in the sea service, and owed everything to himself, by his own courage, and the assistance of some merchants who furnished him with money, fitted out a small fleet, and sailed to Brazil, where he took one of the principal cities called St. Sebastian de Rio Janeiro. He and his crew returned home loaded with riches, and the Portuguese lost even more than he had gained; but the mischief that he had done in Brazil did not alleviate the miseries of France.
VICTORY GAINED BY MARSHAL VILLARS AT DENAIN—THE AFFAIRS OF FRANCE RETRIEVED—THE GENERAL PEACE.
The negotiations which were now openly set on foot in London proved more salutary. The queen sent the earl of Strafford, ambassador to Holland, to communicate to the states the proposals made by Louis XIV. Marlborough’s leave was no longer asked. The earl of Strafford obliged the Dutch to name plenipotentiaries, and to receive those of France.
Three private persons still continued to oppose the peace; these were Marlborough, Prince Eugene, and Heinsius, who persisted in their intention of crushing Louis XIV., but when the English general returned to London, at the close of the campaign in 1711, he was deprived of all his prestige; he found a new house of commons, and had no longer the majority in the house of lords. The queen, by creating a number of new peers, had weakened the duke’s party and strengthened the crown interest. He was now accused, like Scipio, of malfeasance; and, like that hero, extricated himself by his reputation, and by retiring. He was still powerful, though in disgrace. Prince Eugene himself came over to London purposely to strengthen his party. This prince met with the reception due to his birth and reputation, but his proposals were rejected. The court interest prevailed; Prince Eugene returned to end the war alone, with the fresh incentive of a prospect of victory, without a companion to divide the honor.
While the congress was assembling at Utrecht and the French plenipotentiaries, who had been so ill used at Gertruydenberg, now returned to treat upon more equal terms, Marshal Villars lay behind his lines to cover Arras and Cambray. Prince Eugene took the town of Quesnoy, and overspread the country with an army of a hundred thousand men. The Dutch had exerted themselves; and though they had never before furnished their whole quota toward the necessary expenses of the war, they had this year exceeded their contingent. Queen Anne could not as yet openly disengage herself from them; she had sent the duke of Ormond to join Prince Eugene’s army with twelve thousand English, and still kept in pay a number of German troops. Prince Eugene, after burning the suburbs of Arras, advanced toward the French army, and proposed to the duke of Ormond to give them battle; but the English general had been sent with orders not to fight. The private negotiations between England and France drew toward a conclusion: a suspension of arms was proclaimed between the two crowns. Louis XIV. put Dunkirk into the hands of the English, as a security for the performance of his engagements. The duke of Ormond then retired toward Ghent: he endeavored to take with him the troops that were in the queen’s pay; but none would follow him except four squadrons of the regiment of Holstein, and one regiment of Liège. The troops of Brandenburg, Saxony, Hesse, and Denmark remained with Prince Eugene, and were paid by the Dutch. The elector of Hanover himself, who was to succeed Queen Anne on the throne of England, notwithstanding her remonstrances, continued his troops in the pay of the allies, which plainly showed that the pretensions of his family to the crown of England did not depend on Queen Anne’s favor.
Prince Eugene, though deprived of the assistance of the English, was still superior by twenty thousand men to the French army; he was likewise superior by his position, by the great plenty of magazines, and by nine years of continued victories.
Marshal Villars could not prevent him from laying siege to Landrecy. France, exhausted of men and money, was in consternation, and people placed no great dependence on the conferences at Utrecht, which might be all overthrown by the successes of Prince Eugene. Several considerable detachments had already entered Champagne and ravaged the country, and advanced as far as the gates of Rheims.
The alarm was now as great at Versailles as in the rest of the kingdom. The death of the king’s only son, which occurred this year, the duke of Burgundy, the duchess, his wife, and their eldest son, all carried to their graves the same day, and the only remaining child at the point of death; all these domestic misfortunes, added to those from without, and the sufferings of the people, made the close of Louis XIV.’s reign considered as a time pointed out for calamities, and everyone expected to see more disasters than they had formerly seen greatness and glory.
Precisely at this period the duke of Vendôme died in Spain. The general despondency which seized upon the French nation on this occasion, of which I remember to have been a witness, filled them with apprehensions, lest Spain, which had been supported by the duke of Vendôme, should fall with him.
As Landrecy could not hold out long, it was debated at Versailles whether the king should retire to Chambord. On this occasion he told Marshal d’Harcourt that, in case of any fresh misfortune, he would assemble the nobility of his kingdom, lead them in person against the enemy, notwithstanding he was now over seventy, and die fighting at their head.
A fault committed by Prince Eugene delivered the king and kingdom from these dreadful disquietudes. It is said that his lines were too much extended; that his magazines at Marchiennes were at too great a distance; and that General Albemarle, who was posted between Denain and the prince’s camp, was not within reach of assisting him soon enough, in case he was attacked. I have been assured that a beautiful Italian lady, whom I saw some time afterward at The Hague, and whom Prince Eugene then kept, lived at Marchienne-au-Pont; and that it was on her account that this was made a place for magazines. It is doing injustice to Prince Eugene to suppose that a woman could have any share in his military arrangements; but when we know that a curate and a counsellor of Douay, named le Fevre d’Orval, walking together in those quarters, first conceived the idea that Denain and Marchienne-au-Pont might easily be attacked, this will better serve to prove by what secret and weak springs the great affairs of this world are often directed. Le Fevre communicated his notion to the intendant of the province, and he to Marshal Montesquieu, who commanded under Marshal Villars; the general approved of the scheme, and put it into execution. To this action, in fact, France owed her safety more than to the peace she made with England. Marshal Villars misled Prince Eugene; a body of dragoons were ordered to advance in sight of the enemy’s camp, as if going to attack it; and while these dragoons retired toward Guise, the marshal on July 24, 1712, marched towards Denain, with his army drawn up in five columns, and forced General Albemarle’s intrenchments, defended by seventeen battalions, who were all killed or made prisoners of war, with two princes of the house of Nassau, the prince of Holstein, the prince of Anhalt, and all the officers of the detachment. Prince Eugene marched in haste to their assistance; but did not come up till the action was over, and, in endeavoring to get possession of a bridge that led to Denain, he lost a number of his men, and was obliged to return to his camp, after having been witness of this defeat.
All the posts along the Scarpe, as far as Marchienne-au-Pont, were carried, one after another, with the utmost rapidity; the army then pushed directly for Marchienne-au-Pont, which was defended by four thousand men; the siege was carried on with the greatest vigor, and in three days the garrison were made prisoners of war; and all the ammunition and provisions that the enemy had laid up for the whole campaign fell into our hands. The superiority was now wholly on the side of Marshal Villars; the enemy discouraged, raised the siege of Landrecy, and soon afterward saw Douay, Quesnoy, and Bouchain retaken by our troops. The frontiers were now in safety. Prince Eugene drew off his army, after having lost nearly fifty battalions, forty of whom were made prisoners between the fight of Denain and the end of the campaign. The most signal victory could not have produced greater advantages.
Had Marshal Villars been possessed of the same share of popular favor as some other generals, he would have been publicly called the restorer of France, instead of which they hardly acknowledged the obligations they were under to him, and envy prevailed over the public joy for this unexpected success.
Every step of Marshal de Villars hastened the Peace of Utrecht; Queen Anne’s ministry, as answerable to their country and to Europe for their actions, neglected nothing that concerned the interest of England and its allies, and the safety of the public weal. In the first place, they insisted that Philip V., now settled on the throne of Spain, should renounce his right to the crown of France, which he had hitherto constantly maintained; and that the duke of Berry, his brother, presumptive heir to that crown, after the only remaining great-grandson of Louis XIV., then at the point of death, should likewise renounce all pretensions to the crown of Spain, in case he should come to be king of France. They exacted the same on the part of the duke of Orleans. The late twelve years’ war had shown how little men are to be bound by such acts; there is no one known law that obliges the descendants of a prince to give up their right to a throne because their father may have renounced it. These renunciations are of no effect, except when the common interest is in concert with them; however, they served to calm, for the present, a twelve years’ storm; and it is probable that one day several nations may join to support these renunciations that are now the basis of the balance of power and the tranquillity of Europe.
By this treaty the island of Sicily was given to the duke of Savoy, with the title of king, and on the continent the towns of Fenestrelles, Exilles, with the valley of Pragilas; so that they took from the house of Bourbon to aggrandize him.
The Dutch had a considerable barrier given them, which they had always been aiming at; and if the house of Bourbon was despoiled of some territories in favor of the duke of Savoy, the house of Austria was, on the other hand, stripped to satisfy the Dutch, who were, at its expense, the guaranties and masters of the strongest cities of Flanders. Due regard was paid to the interest of the Dutch, with respect to trade; and there was an article stipulated in favor of the Portuguese.
The sovereignty of the ten provinces of the Spanish Netherlands was reserved for the emperor, together with the advantageous lordship of the barrier towns. They also guaranteed to him the kingdom of Naples and Sicily, with all his possessions in Lombardy, and the four ports on the coast of Tuscany. But the court of Vienna would not subscribe to these conditions, as thinking she had not sufficient justice done her.
As to England, her glory and interest were sufficiently secured. She had obtained the demolition of the harbor and fortifications of Dunkirk, which had been the object of so much jealousy. She was left in possession of Gibraltar and the island of Minorca by Spain. France ceded to her Hudson’s Bay, the island of Newfoundland, and Acadia; and she procured greater privileges for her American trade than had been granted even to the French, who placed Philip V. on the throne. We must also reckon among the glorious acts of the English ministry its having engaged Louis XIV. to consent to set at liberty those of his subjects who were confined in prison on account of their religion; this was dictating laws, but laws of a very respectable nature.
Lastly, Queen Anne, sacrificing the rights of blood, and the secret inclinations of her heart, to the desires of her country, secured the succession to the crown of Great Britain to the house of Hanover.
As to the electors of Bavaria and Cologne, the former was to keep the duchy of Luxemburg and the county of Namur till his brother and himself should be restored to their electorates; for Spain had ceded those two sovereignties to the elector of Bavaria, as a consideration for his losses, and the allies had taken neither of them during the war.
France, who demolished Dunkirk, and gave up so many places in Flanders that her arms had formerly conquered, and that had been secured to her by the treaties of Nimeguen and Ryswick, got back Lille, Aire, Béthune, and St. Venant.
Thus did the English ministry to all appearance do justice to everyone; but this was denied them by the Whigs; and one-half of the nation reviled the memory of Queen Anne, for having done the greatest good that a sovereign possibly could do, in giving peace to so many nations. She was reproached with not having dismembered France, when it was in her power to do it.
All these treaties were signed, one after another, in the course of the year 1713; but whether it was owing to the obstinacy of Prince Eugene, or to the bad politics of the emperor’s council, that monarch did not enter into any of these negotiations. He would certainly have had Landau, and perhaps Strasburg, had he at first fallen in with the views of Queen Anne and her ministry; but he was bent on continuing the war, and so got nothing.
Marshal Villars, having secured the rest of French Flanders, marched toward the Rhine, and, after making himself master of Spires, Worms, and all the adjacent country, he took Landau, which the emperor might have had by acceding to the peace, forced the lines that Prince Eugene had ordered to be drawn from Breisgau, defeated Marshal Vaubonne, who defended those lines; and, lastly, besieged and took Freiburg, the capital of Upper Austria.
The council of Vienna pressed the circles of the empire to send the reinforcements they had promised, but none came. They now began to be sensible that the emperor, without the assistance of England and Holland, could never prevail against France, and resolved upon peace when it was too late.
Marshal Villars, after having thus put an end to the war, had the additional honor of concluding the peace with Prince Eugene, at Rastatt. This was, perhaps, the first time that two generals of opposite parties had been known to meet together at the close of a campaign to treat in the names of their masters. They both brought with them that openness of character for which they were distinguished. I have heard Marshal Villars relate that one of the first things he said to Prince Eugene was this: “Sir, we do not meet as enemies; your enemies are at Vienna, and mine at Versailles.” And in fact both of them had always cabals to combat at their respective courts.
In this treaty there was no notice taken of the pretensions which the emperor still maintained to the Spanish monarchy, nor of the empty title of Catholic King, that he continued to bear after Philip V. was in quiet possession of the kingdom. Louis XIV. kept Strasburg and Landau, which he had before offered to give up, Huninguen, and New Breisach, which he had proposed to demolish, and the sovereignty of Alsace, which he had offered to renounce. But what was still more honorable for him, he procured the reinstatement of the electors of Cologne and Bavaria in their ranks and dominions.
It is a remarkable circumstance that France, in all her treaties with the emperors, has constantly protected the rights of the princes and states of the empire. She laid the foundation of the Germanic liberties by the Peace of Münster; and caused an eighth electorate to be erected in favor of this very house of Bavaria. The Treaty of Westphalia was confirmed by that of Nimeguen. By the Treaty of Ryswick she procured all the estate of Cardinal Furstemberg to be restored to him. Lastly, by this Peace of Utrecht, she obtained the re-establishment of the two electors. It must be acknowledged that, throughout the whole negotiation which put an end to this long quarrel, France received laws from England, and imposed them on the empire.
The historical memoirs of those times, from which so many histories of Louis XIV. have been compiled, say that Prince Eugene, when he had finished the conferences, desired the duke de Villars to embrace the knees of Louis XIV. for him, and to present that monarch, in his name, with assurances of the most profound respect of “a subject toward his sovereign.” In the first place, it is not true that a prince, the grandson of a sovereign, can be the subject of another prince, because he was born in his dominions; and in the second place, it is still less so that Prince Eugene, vicar-general of the empire, could call himself the subject of the king of France.
And now each state took possession of its new rights. The duke of Savoy got himself acknowledged in Sicily without consulting the emperor, who complained of it in vain. Louis XIV. procured entrance for his troops into Lille, the Dutch seized on their barrier towns, and the states of the country gave them one million two hundred and fifty thousand florins a year to continue masters in Flanders. Louis XIV. filled up the harbor of Dunkirk, razed the citadel, and demolished the fortifications toward the sea, in presence of the English commissary. The inhabitants, who saw their whole trade ruined thereby, sent a deputation over to London to implore the clemency of Queen Anne. It was a mortifying circumstance to Louis XIV. that his subjects should go to ask favors of a queen of England; but it was still more melancholy for these poor people to meet with a refusal from the queen.
The king some time afterward enlarged the canal of Mardyke, and by means of sluices formed a harbor there, which was thought already to equal that of Dunkirk. The earl of Stair, ambassador from England, complained of this in warm terms to the king. It is said in one of the best books we have that Louis XIV. made him this reply: “My lord, I have always been master in my own kingdom, sometimes in those of others; do not put me in remembrance of it.” I know of my own certain knowledge that Louis XIV. never made so improper a reply; he was far from ever having been master in England: he was indeed master in his own kingdom; but the point in question was, whether he was master of eluding a treaty to which he owed his repose, and perhaps the greatest part of his kingdom. This, however, is true, that he put a stop to the works of Mardyke, and thus yielded to the remonstrances of the ambassador, instead of braving them. The works of the canal of Mardyke were demolished soon afterward, during the regency, and the treaty accomplished in every point.
Notwithstanding the Peace of Utrecht and that of Rastatt, Philip V. was not yet in possession of all Spain: he still had Catalonia to conquer, and the islands of Majorca and Ivica.
It is necessary to know that the emperor Charles, having left his wife at Barcelona, and finding himself unable to carry on a war in Spain, and yet unwilling to give up his claim, or accept of the Peace of Utrecht, had nevertheless made an agreement with Queen Anne for a squadron of English ships to bring away the empress and the troops, now useless in Catalonia. In fact, Catalonia had been already evacuated; and Staremberg, when he quitted that province, had resigned his title of viceroy; but he left behind him all the seeds of a civil war. Those who had the most credit in that province imagined that they might be able to form a republic under a foreign protection; and that the king of Spain would not be strong enough to subdue them. On this occasion they displayed that character which Tacitus gave them so long since, who calls them “an intrepid people, that count their lives for nothing when not employed in fighting.”
If they had made half the efforts for Philip V., their king, that they then did against him, the archduke would never have disputed Spain. By the obstinate resistance they made, they proved that Philip, though delivered from his competitor, was not able to reduce them by his own power. Louis XIV., who, during the latter part of the war, had not been able to assist his grandson with either ships or soldiers, against his rival, Charles, now sent him aid against his rebellious subjects. A fleet of French ships blocked up the harbor of Barcelona, and Marshal Berwick laid siege to it by land.
The queen of England, faithful to her treaty, would not assist this city. The emperor made a vain promise of relief. The besieged defended themselves with a courage that was fortified by fanaticism. The priests and monks ran to arms, and mounted the trenches, as if it had been a religious war. A phantom of liberty rendered them deaf to all the advances made to them by their master. More than five hundred ecclesiastics died during this siege, with their arms in their hands: we may judge whether by their speeches and examples they helped to animate the people.
They hung out a black ensign on the breach and withstood several assaults; at length, the besiegers having made their way into the town, the besieged disputed street after street; and having retreated into the new town, after the old one was taken, they offered to capitulate on condition of being allowed all their privileges; but they obtained only their lives and estates. Most of their privileges were taken from them. Sixty monks were condemned to the galleys, and this was the only vengeance taken by the conquerors. Philip V. had, during the war, treated the little town of Xativa much more severely, by ordering it to be razed from the foundation, as an example; but though he might do this to a town of no importance, he would not destroy a large city that had a fine seaport and was of use to the state.
This fury of the Catalans, that had not exerted itself while Charles VI. was among them, and which transported them to such extremes when they were left without assistance, was the last spark of that flame which had been lighted up by the will of Charles II., king of Spain, and had so long laid waste the most beautiful part of Europe.
PRIVATE ANECDOTES OF THE REIGN OF LOUIS XIV.
Anecdotes are a sort of confined field, where we glean after the plentiful harvest of history: they are small narratives, which have long been secreted, whence they receive the name of anecdotes, and when they concern any illustrious personages, are sure to engage the public attention.
Plutarch’s “Lives” is but a collection of anecdotes, rather entertaining than true; how could he have procured faithful accounts of the private life of Theseus or Lycurgus? Most of the maxims which he puts into the mouths of his heroes advance moral virtue rather than historical truth.
The secret history of Justinian, by Procopius, is a satire dictated by revenge; and though revenge may speak the truth, this satire, which contradicts his public history, has not always the appearance of it.
We now are not allowed to imitate even Plutarch, much less Procopius. We admit as historical truths none but what are well supported. When contemporaries like the cardinal de Retz and the duke de Rochefoucauld, inveterate enemies to each other, confirm the same transaction in both their accounts of it, that transaction cannot be doubted: when they contradict each other, we must doubt them; what does not come within the bounds of probability can deserve no credit, unless several contemporaries of unblemished reputation join unanimously in the assertion.
The most useful and most valuable anecdotes are those secret papers which great princes leave behind them, in which their minds have thrown off all reserve. Such are those I am now going to relate of Louis XIV.
Domestic occurrences amuse only the curious; the discovery of weaknesses entertains only the malignant, except where these weaknesses instruct, either by their fatal consequences, or those virtues which prevented the impending misfortune.
Secret anecdotes of contemporaries are liable to the charge of partiality; they who write at any considerable distance of time should use the greatest circumspection, should discard what is trifling, reduce what is extravagant, and soften what is satirical.
Louis XIV. was so magnificent in his court, as well as in his reign, that the least particulars of his private life seem to interest posterity, as they drew the attention of all the courts of Europe, and of all his contemporaries. The splendor of his government threw a light on his most trivial actions. We are more eager, especially in France, to know the transactions of his court than the revolutions of other states. Such is the effect of a great reputation! We had rather be informed of what passed in the cabinet and court of Augustus, than hear a full detail of the conquests of Attila or Tamerlane.
Hence all who have written the history of Louis XIV. have been very exact in dating his first attachment to the baroness of Beauvais, to Mademoiselle d’Argencourt, to Cardinal Mazarin’s niece, who was married to the count of Soissons, Prince Eugene’s father; and quite elaborate in setting forth his passion for Maria Mancini, that prince’s sister, who was afterward married to Constable Colonne.
He had not assumed the reins of empire when these amusements busied and plunged him into that languid state in which Cardinal Mazarin, who governed with a despotic sway, permitted him to remain. His bare attachment to Maria Mancini was an affair of great importance; for he was so passionately fond of her as to be tempted to marry her, and yet was sufficiently master of himself to quit her entirely. This victory which he gained over his passion made the first discovery of the greatness of his soul; he gained a more severe and difficult conquest in leaving Cardinal Mazarin in possession of absolute sway. Gratitude prevented him from shaking off that yoke which now began to grow too heavy. It was a well-known anecdote at court that, after the cardinal’s death, he said: “I do not know what I should have done, had he lived any longer.”1
He employed this season of leisure in reading books of entertainment, and especially in company with the constable, who, as well as his sisters, had a facetious turn. He delighted in poetry and romances, which secretly flattered his own character, by pointing out the beauty of gallantry and heroism. He read the tragedies of Corneille, and formed that taste which was the result of solid sense, and of that readiness of sentiment which is the characteristic of a real genius.
The conversation of his mother and the court ladies contributed very much to give him this taste and that peculiar delicacy which began now to distinguish the court of France. Anne of Austria had brought with her a kind of generous and bold gallantry, not unlike the Spanish disposition in those days; to this she had added politeness, sweetness, and a decent liberty, peculiar to the French only. The king made greater progress in this school of entertainment from eighteen to twenty than he had all his life in that of the sciences under his tutor, Abbé Beaumont, afterward archbishop of Paris; he had very little learning of this last sort. It would have been better had he at least been instructed in history, especially the modern, but what they had at that time was very indifferently written. He was uneasy at having perused nothing but idle romances, and the disagreeableness he found in necessary studies. A translation of Cæsar’s “Commentaries” was printed in his name, and one of Florus in that of his brother; but those princes had no other hand in them than having thrown away their time in writing a few observations on some passages in those authors.
He who was chief director of the king’s education under the first Marshal Villeroi, his governor, was well qualified for the task, was learned and agreeable, but the civil wars spoiled his education; and Cardinal Mazarin was content he should be kept in the dark. When he conceived a passion for Maria Mancini, he soon learned Italian, to converse with her, and at his marriage he applied himself to Spanish, but with less success. His neglect of study in his youth, a fearfulness of exposing himself, and the ignorance in which Cardinal Mazarin kept him, persuaded the whole court that he would make just such a king as his father, Louis XIII.
There was only one circumstance from which those capable of forming a judgment of future events could foresee the figure he would make; this was in 1655, after the civil wars, after his first campaign and consecration, when the parliament was about to meet on account of some edicts: the king went from Vincennes in a hunting dress, attended by his whole court, and entering the parliament chamber in jack-boots, and his whip in his hand, made use of these very words: “The mischiefs your assemblies produce are well known; I command you to break up those you have begun upon my edicts. M. President, I forbid you to permit these assemblies, and any of you to demand them.”
His height, already majestic; his noble action, the masterly tone and air he spoke with, affected them more than the authority due to his rank, which hitherto they had not much respected: but these blossoms of his greatness seemed to fall off a moment after; nor did the fruits appear till after the cardinal’s death.
The court, after the triumphant return of Mazarin, amused itself with play, with balls, with comedies, which, being but just produced in France, had not grown into an art; and with tragedies, which were now a sublime science, through the management of Peter Corneille. A curate of St. Germain, who inclined toward the rigorous precepts of the Jansenists, had frequently written to the queen against these shows, from the very beginning of her regency. He pretended that those were damned who attended them, and had this anathema signed by seven doctors of the Sorbonne: but Abbé Beaumont, the king’s preceptor, defended them by the approbation of more doctors than the rigid priest could procure to condemn them. Thus he quieted the queen’s scruples, and when he was archbishop of Paris, gave the sanction of authority to that opinion which he had defended when only an abbé.
I must observe that, after Cardinal Richelieu had introduced at court regular plays, which have at last raised Paris to rival Athens, there was not only a bench appointed for academics—in which body were several ecclesiastics—but one in particular for the bishops.
Cardinal Mazarin, in 1646 and 1654, had Italian operas performed by voices which he brought from Italy, in the theatre of the royal palace, and at the Little Bourbon, near the Louvre. This new entertainment had just arisen at Florence, a country favored at that time by fortune as well as nature, to which we owe the revival of many arts, lost in the preceding centuries, and the invention of new ones. France showed some relics of her ancient barbarity in opposing the establishment of these arts.
The Jansenists, whom Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin wanted to keep under, revenged themselves upon these diversions, which these two ministers had introduced. The Lutherans and Calvinists had acted the same part in the time of Pope Leo X. Besides, their opposition was sufficient to gain them the character of austerity. The same men, who would overturn a state to establish opinions frequently absurd, anathematized the innocent pleasures necessary in so large a city, and the arts, which contributed to the splendor of the nation. Abolishing these diversions was an act more worthy of the age of Attila than that of Louis XIV.
Dancing, which may now be reckoned among the arts,1 because it is tied down to rules, and adds grace to motion, was one of the greatest amusements of the court. Louis XIII. had only danced once at a ball, in 1625, and that ball was in so bad taste that it did not in the least presage the appearance this art made in France thirty years after. Louis XIV. excelled in grave dances, which were agreeable to the majesty of his figure, and did not injure that of his rank. At the running at the ring, which was sometimes performed with great splendor, he showed that peculiar dexterity which he had at all exercises. Pleasure and magnificence, such as they then were, diffused themselves universally; but they were nothing in comparison with what appeared when the king sat on the throne; and yet might be reckoned amazing, after the horrors of a civil war, and the dulness of the retired and melancholy life of Louis XIII. That prince, without health and spirits, had neither been attended, lodged, nor equipped as a king. He had not above a hundred thousand crowns’ worth of jewels belonging to the crown; Cardinal Mazarin little more than doubled that sum, and now we have jewels to the amount of above twenty millions of livres.
At the marriage of Louis XIV., in 1660, everything assumed an air of the highest taste and magnificence, and this increased daily. When he made his entry with his queen consort, Paris saw with a respectful and tender admiration, that beautiful young queen, drawn in a superb car of a new invention; the king rode on horseback by her side, adorned with all that art could add to his manly and heroic beauty, which drew universal attention. At the end of the streets of Vincennes a triumphal arch was built, the foundation of which was stone, but the shortness of the time would not permit them to finish it with such durable materials; the rest was only plaster, and has since been pulled down. It was designed by Claude Perrault. The gate of St. Anthony was rebuilt for the same ceremony; a monument of no very noble taste, but adorned with some good pieces of sculpture. All who had seen the day of the battle of St. Anthony, and the dead and dying bodies of the citizens brought to Paris through this gate, then furnished with a portcullis, and who beheld this entry so extremely different, blessed heaven, and returned their thanks for so happy a change.
Cardinal Mazarin added to the solemnity of this marriage the representation of an Italian opera in the Louvre, called “Hercules in Love.” This did not please the French. They saw nothing in it that entertained them but the king and queen, who danced. The cardinal wanted to signalize himself by a play more to the taste of the nation. The secretary of state at Lyons undertook to have a sort of allegorical tragedy after the taste of that of “Europa,” in which Cardinal Richelieu had some hand. The great Corneille was happy in not being chosen to work upon such poor materials. The subject was “Lisis and Hesperia.” Lisis signified France, and Hesperia Spain. Quinault, who had just won a reputation by his “False Tiberinus,” which, though a bad piece, had amazing success, was set to work at it. The “Lisis” had not the same fate. It was acted at the Louvre, and had nothing good in it but the machinery. The marquis of Sourdiac, of the name of Rieux, to whom France was afterward indebted for the establishment of the opera, acted at the same time, at his own expense, in his castle of Newbourg, “The Golden Fleece,” by Peter Corneille, with machinery. Quinault, a youth of genteel figure, was supported by the court; Corneille by his name and the nation. There was one continued train of feasts, pleasures, and gallantry after the king’s marriage, which increased on that of the king’s brother with Henrietta of England, sister of Charles II., and was not interrupted till the death of Cardinal Mazarin, in 1661.
Some months after the death of this minister, an event happened which was not to be paralleled, and what is no less strange, is unnoticed by all the historians. An unknown prisoner, of majestic height, young, of a graceful and noble figure, was sent with the utmost secrecy to the castle on St. Margaret’s Island, in the see of Provence. This prisoner, on the road wore a mask, the chin of which was composed of steel springs, which gave him liberty to eat with his mask on. Orders were given to kill him if he discovered himself. He remained on the island till an officer of tried fidelity, named St. Mars, governor of Pignerol, was made governor of the Bastille in 1690. He went to the island of St. Margaret and brought him to the Bastille with his mask on all the way. The marquis de Louvois went to see him on that island before his departure, and spoke to him with great respect, and without sitting down. This stranger was brought to the Bastille, and lodged as well as he could be in that castle. He was refused nothing that he desired. His greatest pleasure was extraordinary fine linen and laces. He played on the guitar. He was much caressed, and the governor seldom sat down in his presence. An old physician of the Bastille, who had frequently attended this strange gentleman in his illness, declared he never saw his face, though he had frequently examined his tongue and other parts of his body. This physician said that he was rather brown, but extremely well made. The very tone of his voice was engaging, but he never complained of his situation, and never disclosed who he was.1
This stranger died in 1704, and was buried at night in the parish of St. Paul. What redoubles our astonishment is that, when he was sent to the isle of St. Margaret, no person of any consequence disappeared in Europe. This prisoner was, however, doubtless a man of high rank, for on his first arrival on the island, the governor himself set the silver plates upon his table and then retired, after securing the door. One day the prisoner wrote upon a silver plate with the point of a knife, and threw the plate out of the window toward a boat which was on the river, near the foot of the tower. A fisherman, to whom the boat belonged, took up the plate, and brought it to the governor. He, with great eagerness, asked the fisherman: “Have you read what is written upon this plate, or has anyone seen it since you had it?” The fisherman answered: “I do not know how to read. I have just found it, and nobody has seen it.” The peasant was detained till the governor was convinced that he never could read, and that the plate had been seen by no other person. “Go,” said he, “you are happy in not knowing how to read.” There are some very credible witnesses of this fact, who are now living. M. Chamillard was the last person who knew anything of this strange secret. The second marshal de Feuillade, his son-in-law, told me, that at the death of his father-in-law, he conjured him on his knees to tell him who that person was who was never known but by the name of “the man with the iron mask.” Chamillard answered him that it was a secret of state, and that he had taken an oath never to reveal it. In fine, there are many of my contemporaries who will attest the truth of what I advance; nor do I know any one fact so extraordinary and so well supported.
Louis XIV. meanwhile divided his time between the pleasures agreeable to his age and the duties of his station. He held a council daily, and then studied in secret with Colbert. This secret labor was the original cause of the disgrace of the famous Fouquet, in which the secretary of state, Gunegaud, Pellisson, and many others were included. The fall of this minister, who perhaps was less to blame than Cardinal Mazarin, showed that all people have not the liberty of committing the same faults. His ruin was already determined when the king accepted that magnificent feast with which this minister entertained him in his house at Vaux. This palace and gardens had cost him eighteen millions of livres, which were then as much as thirty-six millions would be now. He had built the palace twice, and bought three entire villages, the land of which was all enclosed in these immense gardens, laid out by Lenôtre, and then esteemed the finest in all Europe. The fountains of Vaux, which made no indifferent appearance after even those of Versailles, of Marly, and St. Cloud, were at that time prodigies. But the expense of eighteen millions, the accounts of which are now in existence, show that he was served with as little economy as he served the king. The palaces of St. Germain and Fontainebleau, the only pleasure houses the king had, certainly were not to compare with Vaux. Louis XIV. observed it, and was piqued. Throughout the whole house were to be seen the arms of Fouquet, a squirrel with this motto: “Quo non ascendam?”—“Where shall I not ascend?” The king had it explained to him. The ambition of this device did not contribute to appease the monarch. The courtiers observed that the squirrel was everywhere painted, as pursued by an adder, which was the arms of Colbert. The entertainment exceeded any Cardinal Mazarin had ever given, not only in magnificence, but also in taste. There, for the first time, was acted the “Impertinents” of Molière. Pellisson had made the prologue, which was much admired. Public pleasures so often conceal or prepare the court for private disasters, that, had it not been for the queen-mother, the superintendent and Pellisson would have been arrested at Vaux the very day of the feast. What inflamed the resentment of his master was that Mademoiselle la Vallière, for whom the king began to feel a lively passion, had been one of the objects of the superintendent’s loose desires, who spared nothing to satisfy them. He had offered La Vallière two hundred thousand livres, which she had rejected with scorn, before she had formed any design upon the heart of the king. The superintendent soon perceiving what a powerful rival he had, aimed at being the confidant of her of whom he could not be the possessor, and this, too, enraged his majesty.
The king, who, in the first heat of his resentment, was tempted to arrest the superintendent in the very middle of the entertainment he received from him, afterward dissembled when it was not necessary. It was said that the monarch, now in full power, dreaded Fouquet’s party.
He was attorney-general to the parliament, and this office gave him the privilege of being tried by the united chambers. But after so many princes, marshals, and dukes, had been tried by commissaries they might have given the same treatment to a magistrate, who would make use of such extraordinary measures as, though they might not really be unjust, might raise a suspicion of their being so.
Colbert persuaded him by no very honorable artifice to sell his office, and he parted with it for twelve hundred thousand livres, which now represents above two millions. The immoderate price of places belonging to the parliament, so greatly diminished in value since that time, shows the high estimation in which this body was still held, even in its state of depression. The duke of Guise, great chamberlain to the king, had not sold this office of the crown to the duke of Bouillon for more than eight hundred thousand livres.
Though Fouquet squandered the revenues of the state, and used them as his own proper income, he had still much greatness of soul; what he embezzled he spent in magnificence and acts of liberality. He caused the money which he had for his place to be brought into the king’s privy treasury; yet this noble action did not save him. They drew a man by artifice to Nantes, whom one exempt and two soldiers might have seized at Paris. The king caressed him before his disgrace.
I know not why most princes commonly affect to deceive by false appearances of favor those among their subjects whom they mean to ruin. At such times dissimulation is the opposite to greatness; it never is a virtue, and cannot become a valuable accomplishment, except when absolute necessity enforces it. Louis XIV. seemed to act out of character, but he was made to understand that Fouquet was about raising considerable fortifications in Belle-Isle, and that he possibly might have too many connections, both without and within the kingdom. It plainly appeared at the time in which he was arrested and carried to the Bastille, and to Vincennes, that the strength of his party lay only in the avarice of some courtiers and certain women, who received pensions from him and forgot him the moment he was no longer able to bestow them. The only friends he had left were Pellisson, Gourville, Mademoiselle Scudéri, such as were involved in his disgrace, and some men of letters. The verses of Hainault, the translator of Lucretius, against Colbert, the persecutor of Fouquet, are well known.
M. Colbert, as some persons were discoursing with him about this libellous sonnet, asked whether the king was offended with it, and upon being told he was not, “So neither am I,” replied the minister.
It is true that the commencing of a process against the superintendent would be impeaching the memory of Cardinal Mazarin: for the most considerable depredations of the finances were his doings: he, like a despotic sovereign, had appointed to himself several branches of the public revenue; he had treated in his own name, and to his own advantage, for military stores. “He had imposed,” says Fouquet, in his defence, “by lettres de cachet, extraordinary sums on the generalities; which was never done but by him, and for his behalf; a proceeding which was punishable with death according to the royal ordinances.” It was in this manner the cardinal amassed immense riches, and these even unknown to himself.
I have heard the late M. de Caumartin, intendant of the finances, relate, that in his youth, some years after the death of the cardinal, he had been in the Palais Mazarin, where the duke, his heir, and the duchess Hortense resided; that he saw there a large press, or cabinet, which was very deep, and from top to bottom took up the whole height of the closet where it stood. The key had been lost for some time, so that the drawers had not been opened. M. Caumartin, surprised at the oversight, said to the duchess of Mazarin, that probably some curiosities might be found in this press. It was accordingly opened, and was quite full of the coin called quadruples, also gold counters, and medals of the same metal: of this Madame Mazarin threw handfuls to the people out of the windows for over eight days.
The abuse which Cardinal Mazarin made of his arbitrary power did not justify the superintendent, but the irregularity of the proceedings against him, the tediousness of his process; time, which extinguishes public envy and inspires people’s minds with compassion for the unhappy; together with solicitations, always more active in favor of an unfortunate person than means employed to ruin him; all these together saved his life. Judgment was not given in the process till three years after, in 1664, and, of the twenty-two judges who gave sentence, only nine made it capital. The other thirteen, among whom there were some that Gourville had prevailed on to accept of presents, were in favor of perpetual banishment. But the king commuted the punishment into one still more severe; for he was confined in the castle of Pignerol. All the historians say that he died there in 1680; but Gourville assures us, in his memoirs, that he was released from prison some time before his death. The countess of Vaux, his daughter-in-law, had before strongly averred this fact to me, though the contrary is believed among his own family. Thus one knows not in what place died an unfortunate man, whose least actions, while he was in power, were striking.
Gunegaud, the secretary of state, who sold his place to Colbert, was no less pursued by the chamber of justice, who stripped him of the greatest part of his fortune.
St. Évremond, who had a particular friendship for the superintendent, was involved in his disgrace. Colbert, who searched everywhere for proofs against him whom he had a mind to ruin, caused some papers to be seized that were intrusted to the care of Madame Duplessis-Bellièvre, among which was found a manuscript letter of St. Évremond’s, upon the Peace of the Pyrenees. This piece of pleasantry, which was represented as a crime against the state, was read to the king. Colbert, who scorned to avenge himself upon Hainault, a person of an obscure character, persecuted in St. Évremond the friend of Fouquet, whom he hated, and the fine genius, which he dreaded. The king was so extremely severe as to punish an innocent piece of raillery composed some time before against Cardinal Mazarin, whom he himself had not regretted, and whom the whole court had insulted, reproached, and proscribed for several years with impunity. Among a thousand pieces written against this minister, the least poignant was the only one which was punished; and that after his death.
St. Évremond, having retired into England, lived and died there with the freedom of a man and a philosopher. The marquis de Miremont, his friend, formerly told me in London that there was another reason for his disgrace, which St. Évremond would never be prevailed upon to explain.
The new minister of the finances, under the simple title of comptroller-general, justified the severity of his proceedings in re-establishing the order which his predecessors in office had broken through, and by laboring indefatigably to promote the grandeur of the state.
The court became the centre of pleasure, and the model for the imitation of other courts. The king piqued himself on giving feasts or entertainments which obliterated the remembrance of that made by the count of Vaux.
It seemed that nature took delight at that time to produce in France some of the greatest men in all the arts, and to assemble at court the most beautiful and best made persons of both sexes. The king excelled all his courtiers in the proper dignity of his stature and the majestic beauty of his features. The tone of his voice, noble and striking, gained those hearts which his presence intimidated. He had a gait which could suit none but himself and his high rank, and would have been ridiculous in any other. The embarrassment into which he threw those who spoke to him secretly flattered the complaisance with which he felt his own superiority. That old officer, who, being somewhat confounded, faltered in his speech on asking him a favor, and being unable to finish his discourse, told him: “Sire, I do not tremble thus before your enemies,” easily obtained his demand.
The relish of society had not as yet received all its perfection at court. Anne of Austria, the queen-mother, began to love retirement; the reigning queen hardly understood the French tongue, and goodness constituted her only merit. The princess of England, sister-in-law of the king, brought to court the charms of a soft and animated conversation, which was soon improved by the reading of good books, and by a solid and delicate taste. She perfected herself in the knowledge of the language, which she wrote but badly at the time of her marriage. She inspired an emulation of genius that was new, and introduced at court a politeness and such graces as the rest of Europe had hardly any idea of. Madame possessed all the vivacity of her brother, Charles II., being adorned with the charms of her own sex, and both the power and desire of pleasing. The court of Louis XIV. breathed a gallantry full of decorum, whilst that which reigned at the court of Charles II. was of a freer kind, and, being too much unpolished, dishonored its pleasures.
There passed at first between madame and the king a good deal of that coquetry of wit and secret sympathy, which were observable in little feasts often repeated. The king sent her copies of verses, and she answered him in like manner. It happened that the very same person was confidant both to the king and madame, in this ingenious commerce, and this was Marquis de Dangeau. The king commissioned the marquis to write for him, and the princess also engaged him to answer the king. He thus served both of them, without giving any grounds for suspicion to the one that he was employed by the other: and this was one of the causes of his making his fortune.
This intelligence had alarmed the royal family, but the king converted the noise made by this commerce into an invariable source of esteem and friendship. When madame afterward engaged Racine and Corneille to write the tragedy of “Bérénice,” she had in view not only the rupture of the king with Constable Colonna, but the restraint which she herself put upon her own inclinations, lest they should have a dangerous tendency. Louis XIV. is sufficiently pointed out in these two lines of Racine’s “Bérénice:”
These amusements gave way to the more serious and regularly pursued passion which he entertained for Mademoiselle de la Vallière, maid of honor to madame. He tasted with her the happiness of being beloved purely for his own sake. She had been for two years the secret object of all the gallant amusements and feasts which the king had given. A young valet de chambre to the king, called Belloc, composed several recitatives, intermixed with dances, which were performed sometimes at the queen’s, and sometimes at madame’s; and these recitatives mysteriously expressed the secret of their hearts, which soon ceased being any longer so.
All the public diversions which the king gave were so many pieces of homage paid to his mistress. In 1662 a carrousal (tilt) was held near the Tuileries, in a space which still retains the name of La Place du Carrousel. In it were five quadrilles, or parties: the king was at the head of the Romans; his brother at that of the Persians; the prince of Condé of the Turks; the duke d’Enghien, his son, headed the Indians; and the duke of Guise the Americans. This duke of Guise was the grandson of Balafré; he had made himself famous in the world for the unfortunate temerity with which he had undertaken to make himself master of Naples. His prison, duels, romantic amours, prodigality, and adventures rendered him quite singular. He seemed to be a person of another age. It was said of him, upon seeing him run against the great Condé: “Here go the heroes of history and of romance.”
The queen-mother, the reigning queen, and the queen of England, dowager of Charles I., then forgetting her misfortunes, sat under a canopy to view this spectacle. The count de Sault, son of the duke de Lesdiguières, won the prize, and received it from the hands of the queen-mother. Those feasts revived, more than ever, the taste for devices and emblems, which tournaments had formerly brought into vogue, and which continued after these were no more.
An antiquary, called d’Ouvrier, invented, in 1662, for Louis XIV., the emblem of the sun, darting its rays upon a globe, with these words: “Nec pluribus impar”—“Yet a match for many.” The thought was a kind of imitation of a Spanish device made by Philip II., and was more applicable to this king, who possessed the finest part of the new world, and so many states in the old, than to a young king of France, who hitherto gave no more than hopes. This device had prodigious success. The king’s cabinets, the movables of the crown, the tapestries, and sculptures were all adorned with it; yet the king never carried it in his tournaments. Louis XIV. has been unjustly condemned for the pride of this device, as if he had chosen it himself; and perhaps it has been more justly censured for its foundation. The body does not represent that which the legend signifies; and this legend has not a quite clear and determined sense. That which may be explained several ways does not deserve to be explained by any. Devices, those remains of the ancient chivalry, may suit with feasts, and give some pleasure when these allusions are just, new and pointed. It is better to have none than suffer such as are bad and low, like that of Louis XII., which was a hedgehog, with these words: “Qui s’y frotte, s’y pique”—“He that touches me, galls himself.” Devices are, with regard to inscriptions, what masquerades are to more solemn ceremonies.
The feast of Versailles, in 1664, surpassed that of the Carrousel for its singularity, magnificence, and the pleasures of the mind, which, mixing with the splendor of these diversions, added a relish and such charms as no feast had ever yet been embellished with. Versailles began to be a delightful residence, without approaching to the grandeur at which it arrived afterward.
On May 5, the king came hither with a court consisting of six hundred persons, who, with their attendants, were entertained at his expense, as were likewise all those employed in preparing these enchanting scenes. There was nothing ever wanting at these feasts but such monuments erected for giving of them, as were constructed by the Greeks and Romans. But the readiness with which they built the theatres, amphitheatres, and porticoes, beautified with as much magnificence as taste, was a wonder which added to the illusion, and which, diversified afterward in a thousand ways, still augmented the charms of these spectacles.
There was at first a sort of tournament. Those who were to run appeared the first day as in a review; they were preceded by heralds at arms, pages, and squires, who carried the devices and bucklers; and upon the bucklers were written in letters of gold, verses composed by Perrin and Benserade; this last especially had a singular talent for these gallant pieces, in which he always made delicate and lively allusions to the characters of the persons present, to the personages of antiquity or mythology which they represented, and to the passions actuating the court at that time. The king personated Roger; when all the diamonds belonging to the crown sparkled upon his clothes, and the horse which he rode. The queens, and three hundred ladies under triumphal arches, viewed this entry.
The king, amidst all the eyes which were fixed upon him, distinguished only those of Mademoiselle de la Vallière. The feast was for her alone; which she secretly enjoyed, though not distinguished from the crowd.
The cavalcade was followed by a gilt car eighteen feet high, fifteen broad, and twenty-four long, representing the chariot of the sun. The four ages of gold, silver, brass, and iron, the celestial signs, the seasons, and the hours followed this car on foot. All was distinctly characterized. Shepherds carried pieces of the enclosure, that were adjusted by the sound of trumpets, to which succeeded at intervals violins and other instruments. Some persons who followed Apollo’s car, came at first to recite to the queens certain verses suitable to the place, the time, and the persons present. After the races were finished, and the night came on, four thousand large flambeaux lighted the spot where the feast was given. The tables therein were served by two hundred persons, who represented the seasons, the fauns, sylvans, and dryads, with shepherds, grape-gatherers, and reapers. Pan and Diana advanced upon a moving mountain, and descended from it in order to place upon the tables whatever the country and the forests produced that was most delicious. Behind the tables, in a semi-circle, rose up all at once a theatre filled with performers in concert. The arcades which surrounded the table and theatre were decorated with five hundred chandeliers, with tapers in them; and a gilt balustrade inclosed this vast circuit.
These feasts, so much superior to what are invented in romances, lasted for seven days. The king carried four times the prizes of the games; and afterward he left those he had won to be contended for by other knights, and accordingly gave them up to the victors.
The comedy of the “Princesse d’Élide,” or “Princess of Elis,” though not one of the best plays of Molière, was one of the most agreeable decorations of these games, for the vast number of fine allegories on the manners of the times, and for the apposite purposes which form the agreeableness of these feasts, but which are lost to posterity. People at court were still fond, even to madness, of judicial astrology: many princes imagined, through a haughty superstition, that nature distinguished them by writing their destiny in the stars. Victor Amadeus, duke of Savoy, father of the duchess of Burgundy, retained an astrologer near his person, even after his abdication. Molière was so bold as to attack this delusion in his comedy.
Here also was to be seen a court fool. These wretched fellows were still much in vogue. This was a relic of barbarism that continued longer in Germany than in any other place. The want of amusements, and the inability of procuring such as are agreeable and virtuous in times of ignorance and bad taste, had given occasion to the invention of this wretched pleasure, which degrades the human mind. The fool who was then in the court of Louis XIV. had formerly belonged to the prince of Condé; his name was Angeli. The count de Gramont said that, of all the fools who followed that prince, there was none but Angeli who made his fortune. This buffoon was not without some sense. It is he who said: “That he went not to hear sermons, because, as he did not like brawling, so he did not understand reasoning.”
The farce of “The Forced Marriage” was likewise acted at this feast. But what was truly admirable here was the first representation of the first three acts of “Tartuffe.” The king had an inclination to see this masterpiece even before it was finished. He afterward protected it against those false bigots who would have drawn in earth and heaven to be interested for the suppression of it: and it will subsist, as has been already said elsewhere, as long as there shall be any taste and hypocrites remaining in France.
Most of these shining solemnities are often calculated only to please the eyes and the ears. That which is no more than pomp and magnificence passes away in one day; but when masterpieces of art like “Tartuffe” make up the ornament of these feasts they leave behind them an eternal remembrance.
There are still fresh in memory several strokes of those allegories of Benserade, which were an ornament to the ballads of that time. I shall only give here the verses for the king, representing the sun.
The principal glory of these amusements, which perfected taste, politeness, and talents, in France, proceeded from this, that they did not divert the monarch in the least from his assiduous labors: for without these he would only have known how to keep a court, and would have been unacquainted with the methods of governing: so that had the magnificent pleasures of this court glossed over the miseries of the people, they had only been odious. But he who gave these feasts gave bread to the people in the famine of 1662. He caused corn to be brought, which the rich purchased at a cheap rate, and he gave it gratuitously to poor families at the gates of the Louvre: he remitted to the people three millions of imposts; no part of the interior administration was neglected, his government was respected abroad, the king of Spain was obliged to yield to him the precedency, the pope was forced to make reparation, Dunkirk was added to France by a sale no less glorious to the purchaser than it was ignominious to the seller. In short, all the steps taken while he held the reins of government, had been either noble or useful; after this the giving of feasts was extremely proper.
Chigi, the legate a latere, and nephew of Pope Alexander VII., coming in the midst of these rejoicings to Versailles to make amends to the king for the high insult offered by the pope’s guards, presented a new spectacle to the court. Such grand ceremonies are like feasts for the public. The honors paid him rendered the satisfaction more striking and illustrious. He received under a canopy the compliments of the superior courts, the bodies of the city and clergy: he entered Paris amid the discharge of cannon, with the great Condé on his right hand, and the son of that prince on his left: he came in this pomp to humble himself, Rome, and the pope, before the king who had not yet drawn his sword. After he had audience he dined with the king, and all endeavored to treat him magnificently, and to give him pleasure. Afterward the doge of Genoa was treated with less ceremony, but with the same earnest desire of pleasing, which the king always made reconcilable with his more lofty proceedings.
All this gave the court of Louis XIV. an air of grandeur, which quite obscured all the other courts of Europe. He was desirous that this lustre annexed to his person should reflect a glory on all around him; that the great should be honored, beginning with his brother and the prince; and that none should be powerful. It was with this view that he determined in favor of the peers their ancient dispute with the presidents of the parliament: the latter pretended that they should give their opinions before the peers, and accordingly they put themselves in possession of this right: but he decided, in an extraordinary council, that the peers should give their opinions at the bars of justice, held in the king’s presence, before the presidents, as if they owed this prerogative only to his person, when present; and he allowed the ancient usage in those assemblies which are not judicial still to continue.
In order to distinguish his principal courtiers, he invented blue short coats embroidered with gold and silver. The permission of wearing these was a great favor to such as were guided by vanity. They were in almost as much demand as the collar of an order. It may be observed, as we have entered upon minute details, that at that time these coats were worn over a doublet adorned with ribbons, and over the coat passed a belt, to which hung the sword. There was also a sort of laced cravat, and a hat adorned with a double row of feathers. This style, which lasted till 1684, became that of all Europe, except Spain and Poland: for people almost everywhere already piqued themselves on imitating the court of Louis XIV.
He established an order in his household, which still continues, regulated the several ranks and offices belonging thereto; and he created new places about his own person, as that of the grand master of the wardrobe. He re-established the tables instituted by Francis I. and augmented them. There were twelve of these for the commensal officers, as they are called, who eat at court, and are served with as much elegance and profusion as a great many sovereigns: he would have all strangers invited thither, and this lasted during all his reign. But there was another point of a still more desirable and polite nature, which was, that after he had built the pavilions of Marly in 1679, all the ladies found in their apartments a complete toilette, in which nothing that belonged to luxury was overlooked: whoever happened to be on a journey, might give repasts in their apartments to their friends, and the same delicacy was used in serving the guests as for the master himself. Such trivial matters have their value only when they are supported by greater. In all his actions, splendor and generosity were to be seen. He made presents of two hundred thousand francs to the daughters of his ministers at their marriage.
That which roused most admiration of him in Europe was an unexampled instance of liberality. He had the hint from a discourse which he held with the duke of Saint-Aignan, who told him that Cardinal Richelieu had sent presents to some learned men of other countries who had written eulogies upon him. The king did not wait till he was praised; but, sure of deserving it, he recommended his ministers Lionne and Colbert to select a number of Frenchmen and foreigners distinguished for their literature, on whom he might bestow marks of his generosity. Lionne, having written to foreign countries, informed himself as much as possible in a matter of such delicacy, where the point was to give preference to contemporaries. At first a list of sixty persons was made out: some had presents given them, and others pensions, according to their rank, wants, and merits. Allati, librarian of the Vatican; Count Graziani, secretary of state to the duke of Modena; the celebrated Viviani, mathematician to the grand duke of Florence; Vossius, historiographer to the United Provinces; the illustrious mathematician Huygens, and a Dutch resident in Sweden; in short, down to the professors of Altorf and Helmstadt, towns almost unknown to the French, were astonished upon receiving letters from Colbert, by which he acquainted them that though the king was not their sovereign, he entreated them to allow him to be their benefactor. The expressions in these letters were estimated from the dignity of the persons who sent them; and all were accompanied with rewards or pensions.
Among the French, they knew how to distinguish Racine, Quinault, Fléchier, since bishop of Nîmes, who was then but very young. They had presents. It is true that Chapelain and Cotin had pensions bestowed upon them: but it was chiefly Chapelain whom the minister Colbert had consulted. These two men, otherwise so much disparaged on account of their poetry, were not without merit. Chapelain was possessed of an immense stock of learning; and what is surprising is, that he had taste and was one of the most acute critics. There is a great difference in all this from genius. Science and vivacity conduct an artist; but they do not form him in any kind. None in France had more reputation in their time than Ronsard and Chapelain: the reason for this was that in Ronsard’s days barbarism prevailed, and in those of Chapelain the people had hardly emerged from it. Costar, a fellow student of Balzac and Voiture, called Chapelain the first of the heroic poets.
Boileau had no share in these bounties: he had hitherto produced only satires; and it is well known that these pieces attacked the learned men whom the ministry had consulted. The king distinguished him some years after, without consulting anybody.
The presents made in foreign countries were so considerable that Viviani built a house at Florence out of the liberality of Louis XIV. He put in letters of gold upon the frontispiece, “Ædes a Deodatæ”—“This house is the gift of God,” being an allusion to the surname of Dieu Donné, which appellation the public voice had given to this prince at his birth.
The effect which this extraordinary munificence had in Europe may be easily imagined; and if we consider all the memorable things which the king did very soon after, the most severe and most morose men should bear with the excessive eulogiums lavished upon him. Twelve panegyrics of Louis XIV. were pronounced in different towns in Italy; a homage which was paid him neither from fear nor hope; and these the marquis Zampieri sent to the king.
He always continued pouring his favors upon the sciences and arts: of these we have plain proofs from particular gratuities; as about four thousand louis d’or to Racine, also from the fortunes of Despréaux and Quinault, especially that of Lulli, and of all the artists who devoted their labors to him. He even gave a thousand louis d’or to Benserade for engraving the mezzotinto plates of his Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” in roundelays; a liberality badly applied, and which only shows the generosity of the sovereign. He also recompensed Benserade for the little merit which he had shown in his ballads.
Several writers have attributed solely to M. Colbert this protection given to the arts and this magnificence of Louis XIV. But he had not further merit in the affair than seconding the magnanimity and taste of his master. This minister, who had a very great genius for the finances, commerce, navigation, and the general police, had not in his own mind that taste and elevation which the king had: he zealously promoted, but was far from inspiring him with what nature had given.
It is not easy to discover upon what foundation certain authors have reproached this monarch with avarice. A prince who has domains entirely independent of the revenues of the state may be avaricious, like an individual; but a king of France, who, in reality, only distributes the treasures of his subjects, must of consequence be free from this vice. The will or care to recompense may indeed be wanting; but this is what Louis XIV. can never be justly reproached with.
At the time that he began to lavish so many favors on men of talents, the use which the count de Bussi made of those he possessed was punished with the utmost severity. He was imprisoned in the Bastille in the year 1665. His writing “The Amours of Gaul” was the pretext for his confinement. The real cause was a song in which the king was a little too freely treated; the memory of it was revived at this time, in order to ruin Bussi, the supposed author:
His works were not good enough to compensate for the mischief which they brought upon him. He spoke his own language with the utmost purity: he was not destitute of merit, but his self-sufficiency was much greater than his merit, and he made no other use of it but to create himself enemies. It would have been generous in Louis XIV. to have pardoned him: but thus he avenged his personal injury, while he, in appearance, yielded to the public clamor. The count de Bussi was released in about eighteen months; but he never recovered his former place in the king’s favor, though he continued, during the remainder of his life, to profess an attachment to Louis XIV. which neither the king nor anybody else believed to be sincere.
NOTES TO CHAPTER XXIII.
The King and the Cardinal.—This anecdote is attested by the memoirs of La Porte, p. 255, and we there see that the king had taken an aversion to the cardinal; that the minister, though his relative, and intrusted with his education, had made no effort to improve him, and had often left him without the common necessaries of life. He adds much heavier accusations, which reflect dishonor on the cardinal’s reputation; but they do not appear to be proved, and no accusation should be recognized without proof.
The King and the Assembly.—These words, faithfully copied, are in all the authentic journals of those times; it is neither allowable to omit or change a word in them in any history of France. The author of M. de M. makes a bold conjecture in his note. “His speech was not quite so good, but his eyes spoke more sensibly than his mouth.”
St. Évremond.—This was the celebrated Charles de St. Denis, lord of St. Évremond, who had distinguished himself by his gallantry in the field, and his wit in conversation. His letter, reflecting on the memory of Cardinal Mazarin, being discovered, Louis ordered him to be imprisoned in the Bastille; but before he could be arrested, he made his escape into Holland, and was invited to England by King Charles II. who gratified him with a pension of three hundred pounds. He lived to enjoy the favor of King William also, and died at London in 1703, at the age of ninety. His writings have been admired for the vivacity of his style, the strength and delicacy of his portraits, the justness of his reflections, the elegance of his taste, and the agreeable variety of his expression. They are not, however, without affectation, obscurity, and false fire; and his poetry is but indifferent.
Henry, duke of Guise.—This Henry, duke of Guise, was designed for the Church, provided with a great number of abbeys, and even nominated to the archbishopric of Rheims: but he was stripped of all his benefices by Cardinal Richelieu. He fought a duel with Count de Coligny, for which he was obliged to retire to Rome, whence he repaired to Naples, in order to command the army of the people who had rebelled against the court of Spain. His adventures, on this occasion, were altogether romantic; but, in spite of all his courage and efforts, he was taken prisoner and carried to Spain, being eventually released at the solicitation of the great prince of Condé.
Perrin and Benserade.—Abbé Perrin was a native of Lyons, the first who, by royal patent, established an opera in Paris, in imitation of the Venetian opera. He and his partners erected a theatre in the Rue Mazarine, and, in 1672, exhibited the pastoral “Pomona,” the poetry by Perrin, and the music by Lambert. Perrin quarreling with his partners, resigned his patent in favor of the famous Lulli, who built a new theatre near the palace of the Luxembourg, from which he later transferred his company to the hall of the Palais Royal. Perrin, besides several pastorals of five acts, wrote many sonnets, odes, and elegies. He also translated the “Æneid” of Virgil in verse, and enjoyed a great reputation. His death happened about the year 1680.
Isaac Benserade was born of a good family, at Lyons, in Normandy, in 1612. He soon distinguished himself as a wit, a poet, and a man of gallantry, was gratified with a pension by the queen mother of Louis XIV., and lived in great familiarity and favor with the noblemen of that court. He composed tragedies, comedies, and verses for ballets, which were in great esteem at court, as well as through all France, in the younger days of Louis. All the wits of that kingdom were divided on the merit of two sonnets, one by Benserade, and the other by Voiture. He was particularly patronized by Cardinal Mazarin, and preserved his reputation to a good old age. Among his bons mots, the most remarkable is the repartee he made to a gentleman whom he had often rallied on suspicion of impotence. That gentleman, meeting Benserade on the street: “Well,” said he, “notwithstanding all your raillery, my wife has been delivered some days.” “O, sir,” replied the poet, “I never doubted the ability of your wife.”
La Vallière.—Louisa Frances de la Baume-le-Blanc de la Vallière was maid of honor to Henrietta of England, duchess of Orleans. She fell in love with the person of Louis XIV., who returned her passion, had several children by her and raised her to the rank of duchess of Vaujour, and peeress of France. Tired of the pleasures of a court, and touched by the stings of repentance, she retired to the convent of the Carmelites in Paris, and spent the latter part of her life in acts of piety and mortification.
Alazzi.—Leo Alazzi was a native of Chio, acquired a great share of reputation for learning, and wrote a great number of books; but his taste and judgment were not thought equal to his erudition. He died at Rome in 1669, in the eighty-third year of his age.
Graziani.—Jerome Graziani, count of Sarzana, distinguished himself by his poetical genius. He wrote a heroic poem, entitled “Cleopatra,” and another on the conquests of Granada, together with a collection of odes and sonnets. He was appointed secretary of state, and afterward created count of Sarzana by Francis, duke of Modena, to whose family he had been always zealously attached.
Viviani.—Vincent Viviani was a disciple of the famous Galileo, and soon distinguished himself by a sublime genius for geometry. He undertook to restore, by conjecture, the fifth book of “Apollonius de Maximis et de Minimis,” which was lost. While he was engaged in this undertaking, the famous Borelli found in the grand duke’s library at Florence, an Arabic manuscript, with this Latin title: “Apollonii Pergæi Conicorum Libri Octo.” This, with the grand duke’s permission, he carried to Rome to be translated by Abraham Ecchellensis, Maronite professor of the Oriental tongues. Viviani, in the meantime, without the least communication with this translator, published his restoration by conjecture; and when the translation of the Arabic manuscript was finished, it appeared that he had not only restored all that was in the fifth book of Apollonius, but carried his researches much farther on the same subject. He afterward restored by the same art of divination or conjecture, three books of the ancient geometrician, Aristæus, which had been lost.
Vossius.—Dionysius Vossius, who translated into Latin “Reidanius’s Annals,” and was nominated professor of history and eloquence at Derpt in Livonia, died young at Amsterdam, in 1633. Isaac Vossius, the son of Gerard John Vossius, was also a man of great erudition, and received a very considerable present from Louis XIV., but he was no historian. He came over to England in the reign of Charles II., and died canon of Windsor. Matthew Vossius, the brother of Dionysius, wrote in Latin five books of the “Annals of Holland and Zealand;” but it does not appear that he received either pension or present from the king of France; whereas the letter of Colbert to Isaac Vossius is still extant.
Racine.—John Racine, celebrated for his tragedies, which are preferred to those of the great Corneille, in point of correctness, tenderness, and regularity. Corneille was more sublime; Racine more interesting; the one commanded admiration; the other maintained an empire over all the passions of the heart. Corneille was living, and admired by all France, when Racine made his first appearance as a tragic writer, and acquired the applause of the whole kingdom, without diminishing the fame of his great contemporary.
Quinault.—Philip Quinault acquired great reputation by his comedies and operas, notwithstanding the satirical couplet of Boileau:
To the censure of this poet, Quinault made no reply. On the contrary, he courted his friendship, and visited him often, in order to take his advice concerning his works; but he never spoke a syllable of Boileau’s own performances, and this affected silence piqued him extremely. “His only reason,” said Despréaux, “for soliciting my acquaintance was that he might have an opportunity to talk of his own verses; but he never says a word of mine.”
Fléchier.—Esprit Fléchier, bishop of Nimes, rendered himself famous by writing panegyrics on the saints, and by composing funeral orations, one of the most celebrated of which is that which he pronounced on the great Turenne. He was a prelate of uncommon erudition, pious, moderate, and extremely charitable.
Chapelain.—John Chapelain was in very high reputation for his poetical genius, under the ministry of the Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin. Balzac has praised him on many occasions. He wrote one ode to Cardinal Richelieu, which is generally admired; but his poem “De la Pucelle” was the ruin of all his poetical fame; and produced the following severe distich:
Chapelain, in the midst of his success as an author, had the misfortune to fall under the ridicule of Boileau; as did his contemporary, Cotin, canon of Bayeux, who, though a good scholar was a wretched preacher, and a miserable poet.
Guez.—John Louis Guez, lord of Balzac, was patronized as a man of genius by Richelieu, esteemed the most eloquent man in France, and the great restorer of the French language.
Voiture.—Vincent Voiture was patronized by the duke of Orleans, brother of Louis XIV. He distinguished himself by his writings, both in prose and verse, which were much admired for their purity of style, gayety, gallantry, and elegant turn of thought. He was the son of a vintner of Amiens; of an amorous disposition, and much addicted to play.
Boileau.—Nicholas Boileau, sieur Despréaux, is so well known by his poetical works as to need no further description.
Lulli.—John Baptist Lulli was a native of Florence, though he is styled the father of French music. He it was who introduced operas into France, and his compositions were universally admired. St. Évremond says he was a perfect master of the passions, and understood the human heart much better than the authors whose works he set to music.
Louis XIV. was desirous of joining the sweets of friendship to the glory, the pleasures, the pomp, and the gallantry which brightened the first years of his reign; but to make a happy choice of friends is a difficult task for a monarch. One of those in whom he placed the greatest confidence basely betrayed him, the other made an ill use of his favor. The first was the marquis de Vardes, who was privy to the king’s affection for Madame de la Vallière. It is generally known that court intrigues induced him to seek her ruin; her situation exposed her to the ill-will of the jealous, but her character should have secured her from the machinations of enemies. It is known also that he had the boldness, in concert with the count de Guiche and the countess of Soissons, to write a counterfeit letter to the queen, in the name of the king of Spain, her father. This letter informed the queen of what should have been concealed from her, and what could not but disturb the peace of the royal family. Besides being guilty of this piece of treachery, he was malicious enough to spread a report that the duke and duchess of Navailles, the worthiest persons at court, were at the bottom of it. These, though entirely innocent, were sacrificed to the resentment of the deceived monarch. The villainous proceeding of de Vardes was detected, but too late; criminal as he was, however, his punishment did not exceed that of the innocent persons whom he had accused, and who were deprived of their places, and obliged to retire from court.
The other favorite was the count of Lauzun, afterward created duke, sometimes the king’s rival in his occasional amours, sometimes his confidant, and so well known since, by the marriage which he contracted in too public a manner with the king’s niece, and which he afterward renewed in secret, notwithstanding the promise he had given to his master.
The king, disappointed in his choice of favorites, declared that where he had sought for friends he had found only intriguers. This unhappy knowledge of mankind, which is generally acquired too late, caused him likewise to say: “Whenever I give a vacant place I make a hundred malcontents, and one ungrateful wretch.” Neither the pleasures nor embellishments of the king’s palaces and of Paris, nor the care of the police, were in the least discontinued during the war of 1666.
The king danced at the balls till the year 1670. He was then thirty-two years of age. Upon seeing the tragedy of “Britannicus” played at St. Germain, he was struck with the following verses:
From that time he ceased to dance in public, and the poet reformed the monarch. His connection with the duchess de la Vallière still subsisted, notwithstanding the frequent breaches of his fidelity to her. These were not attended with much difficulty. He found every woman disposed to receive his addresses with transport, and he constantly returned to her, who by the mildness and goodness of her character, and even by the force of habit, had captivated his affections without art. But, in the year 1669, she perceived that Madame de Montespan was gaining the ascendent: she bore this with her usual mildness; she supported the mortification of being a long time witness to the triumph of her rival: she scarcely uttered a complaint, but thought herself happy in her misfortune, because she was respectfully treated by the king, whom she continued to love, and had opportunities of seeing him, though she was not now the object of his affections.
At length, in the year 1675, she had recourse to the refuge of a mind replete with tenderness and sensibility, which can only be subdued by the most profound and affecting considerations. She thought that God alone was worthy to possess a heart which had been honored with the affection of such a lover; and her conversion in a short time made as much noise as her passion had done formerly. She became a Carmelite at Paris, and persevered in the austerities of that order. The delicacy of a woman accustomed to so much pomp, luxury, and pleasure was not shocked when she was obliged to cover herself with a hair-cloth, walk barefooted, fast rigidly, and sing among the choir at night in a language she did not understand. In this manner she lived from 1675 till 1710, by the name of Sister Louisa the Penitent. A king would deserve the name of tyrant should he punish a guilty woman with so much severity; yet many a woman has punished herself thus for having loved. There are scarcely any examples of statesmen who have buried themselves in this manner; yet the guilt of politicians seems to stand more in need of expiation than the frailty of lovers; but those who govern souls have authority only with the weak.
It is generally known that when Sister Louisa was informed of the death of the duke of Vermandois, her son by the king, she said, “I should lament his birth more grievously than his death.” She had a daughter, who, of all the king’s children, had the nearest resemblance to her father; and afterward married Prince Armand of Conti, cousin of the great Condé.
In the meantime Madame de Montespan enjoyed the monarch’s favor, and availed herself of it with an external pomp and pride equal to the modesty of Madame de la Vallière.
While Madame de la Vallière and Madame de Montespan continued to vie with each other for the first place in the king’s affection, the whole court was taken up with love intrigues. Louvois himself became sensible to the influence of this passion. Among the many mistresses of this minister, whose rough character seemed so incompatible with love, was Madame du Frenoi, wife of one of his clerks, in whose favor he, by his credit, afterward caused a new place to be established among the queen’s attendants: she was created lady of the bedchamber: she had access to the queen’s person on all occasions. The king, by thus indulging the private inclinations of his ministers, thought to justify his own.
There cannot be a more striking example of the power of prepossession and custom than married women being at that time allowed publicly to have gallants, while the granddaughter of Henry IV. was refused even a husband. She, after having rejected so many sovereigns, and having entertained hopes of marrying Louis XIV., was, at the age of forty-three, desirous to make the fortune of a gentleman of a noble race. She obtained leave to marry Péquilin, of the Caumont family, count of Lauzun, and a captain of one of the two companies called the hundred gentlemen pensioners, which are now extinct, and for which the king had instituted the place of colonel-general of the dragoons. There were numerous precedents of princesses who had married gentlemen: the Roman emperors often gave their daughters in marriage to senators: the daughters of the sovereigns of Asia, more powerful and more despotic than a king of France, always marry the slaves of their fathers.
Mademoiselle bestowed upon the count of Lauzun all her possessions, valued at twenty millions, four duchies, the sovereignty of Dombes, the county of Eu, and the palace of Orleans, called Luxembourg. She retained nothing, having given herself up entirely to the pleasing idea of making the person she loved richer than any king ever made a subject. The contract was drawn up; Lauzun was for a day duke of Montpensier; nothing now remained but to sign. In a word, all things were in readiness, when the king, attacked on every side by representations of princes, ministers, and the enemies of a man whose prosperity was too great to be borne, retracted his promise, and forbade the alliance. He had, by letter, apprised foreign courts of the intended marriage; he wrote again to inform them that it was dropped. He was censured for having permitted it; he was equally censured for having forbidden it. He was afflicted at being the cause of Mademoiselle’s unhappiness. However, this very prince, who had been grieved at being under the necessity of breaking his word with Lauzun, caused him, in November, 1670, to be confined in the castle of Pignerol, for having privately married the princess, who he had, a few months before, given him leave to marry publicly. He was shut up during the space of ten years.
There are many kingdoms whose sovereigns have not so much power; those that have are most beloved when they decline to make use of it. Should a citizen who does not violate the laws of the state be so severely punished by him who represents the state? Is there not a wide difference between offending one’s sovereign and betraying one’s sovereign? Should a king treat a man with more rigor than the law would treat him? Those who have asserted that Madame de Montespan, who put a stop to this marriage, being irritated against the count de Lauzun for the bitter reproaches he uttered against her, exacted that vengeance, have done that monarch great injustice. It would have been a proof both of tyranny and pusillanimity to sacrifice to female resentment a brave man and a favorite, who, after being deprived of an immense fortune by his master, had been guilty of no other crime but speaking too freely of Madame de Montespan.
I hope my readers will excuse these reflections, which the natural rights of mankind oblige me to make; but at the same time equity requires that as Louis XIV. had not been guilty of an action of that nature during the whole course of his reign, he should not be accused of so cruel a piece of injustice. He was certainly severe enough in punishing with such rigor a clandestine marriage, an innocent union, which it would have been more prudent in him to pass over in silence. To withdraw his favor from Lauzun was but just, to imprison him was too severe.
Those who call this private marriage in question need only read the memoirs of Mademoiselle with attention. These memoirs reveal what she endeavors to conceal. It appears from them that this princess, who had complained so bitterly to the king when her marriage was forbidden, did not dare to complain of her husband’s being imprisoned. She owns that she was thought to be married; she does not, however, assert that she was not: and, if there was no proof of it but that expression: “I neither can nor ought to change my sentiments for him,” it would be conclusive.
Lauzun and Fouquet were astonished at meeting in the same prison; but the latter, who in the height of his glory and power had seen Péquilin mixed with the crowd like a gentleman of no fortune from one of the provinces, thought him out of his senses when he assured him that he had been the king’s favorite, and had obtained leave to marry the granddaughter of Henry IV. with all the wealth and the titles of the house of Montpensier.
After having languished ten years in prison, he was at length released; but it was not till after Madame de Montespan had engaged Mademoiselle to confer the sovereignty of Dombes and the county of Eu upon the duke of Maine, then an infant, who possessed them after the death of that princess. She made this donation merely through a hope that the duke of Lauzun would be acknowledged as her husband; but she was herein deceived: the king only allowed her to bestow on her concealed and unfortunate husband the lands of St. Fargeau and Thiers, with other considerable revenues, which Lauzun found insufficient. In a word, she was obliged to be satisfied with being his wife in private, and to suffer herself to be neglected by him in public. This princess, unhappy at court and unhappy at home, which is the ordinary effect of violent passions, died in 1693.
As for the count of Lauzun, he went over to England in 1688. Being fated to extraordinary adventures, he conducted to France the queen of James II. and her son, then in the cradle. He was created duke. He commanded in Ireland with but indifferent success; and returned more celebrated for his adventures than esteemed for his personal merit. We have seen him die at a very advanced age, quite forgotten, as is generally the case with those who have been concerned in important events, without having performed great exploits.
Madame de Montespan, however, was all-powerful at court, at the beginning of the intrigues just spoken of.
Athénaïs de Mortemart, wife of the marquis de Montespan; her elder sister, the marchioness de Thiange, and her younger sister, for whom she obtained the abbey of Fontevraud, were the finest women of that age; and all three added the most refined and lively wit to their personal attractions. Their brother, the duke of Vivonne, marshal of France, was one of the most eminent men at court, both for taste and learning. The king, happening one day to ask him: “What advantage is there in reading?” the duke, who was fat and of a ruddy complexion, answered, “Reading has the same effect upon the mind that partridges have upon my cheeks.”
These four were universally admired for a happy turn of conversation, which united humor, simplicity, and refinement, and went by the appellation of the Mortemart wit. They wrote with inexpressible ease and grace. This sufficiently shows the absurdity of a story which I have heard repeated over and over, that Madame de Montespan was obliged to employ Madame Scarron to write her letters; and that she thereby became her rival, and afterward supplanted her.
It is true, indeed, that Madame Scarron, since Madame de Maintenon, had more acquired knowledge, and her conversation was more agreeably insinuating. There are letters of hers extant wherein art embellishes nature, and which are written with the utmost elegance. But Madame de Montespan had no occasion for the assistance of another’s wit; and she was long possessed of the king’s favor before Madame de Maintenon was presented to him.
Madame de Montespan’s glory was in its brightest lustre at the time of the king’s journey into Flanders in 1670. The ruin of the Dutch was planned during this journey, in the midst of pleasures. It was a continual festival, attended with the utmost pomp and magnificence.
The king, who generally went upon an expedition on horseback, upon this occasion went in a coach. Post-chaises were not invented till afterwards. The queen, her sister-in-law, and the marchioness de Montespan, were in this magnificent equipage, which was followed by many others; and when Madame de Montespan went alone, she had four of the king’s guards to attend her. Then the dauphin came with his retinue, and Mademoiselle with hers: this was before the fatal affair of her marriage; she, in perfect peace of mind, partook of all these triumphs, and saw with secret satisfaction her lover, who was the king’s favorite, at the head of his company of guards. The finest movables of the crown were carried into the towns where the king passed the night. In every city the court passed through there was either a ball or fire-works. The king was accompanied by all the troops of his household, and all his domestics went before or followed. A public table was kept at St. Germain. In this pomp the court visited all the conquered towns. The chief ladies of Brussels and Ghent came to see this magnificent procession. The king invited them to his table, and with great generosity made them presents. All the officers of the troops in garrison received gratuities. There was frequently no less than fifteen hundred louis d’or a day spent in liberalities.
All the honors and distinctions were intended for Madame de Montespan, except what duty exacted for the queen; yet that lady was not in the secret of the expedition. The king knew how to make a distinction between pleasure and state affairs.
The king’s sister, who was alone intrusted with the care of uniting two kings, and bringing about the destruction of Holland, embarked at Dunkirk aboard the fleet of her brother, Charles II., king of England. She carried with her Mademoiselle Kerowal, afterward duchess of Portsmouth, whose beauty was equal to that of Madame de Montespan. She afterward became, in England, what Madame de Montespan was in France, but with greater credit. King Charles was governed by her to the last moment of his life; and though he was by no means constant to her, she always preserved her ascendency over him. No woman’s beauty was ever more lasting than hers; when near the age of seventy she had something noble and pleasing in her countenance, which years could not efface.
The king’s sister went to see her brother at Canterbury, and returned with the glory of being successful. She had not long enjoyed it when a sudden and painful death carried her off, at the age of twenty-six, on June 30, 1670. The court was seized with grief and consternation, aggravated by the manner of her death. The princess thought she had been poisoned. Montague, the English ambassador, was convinced of it, the court scarcely doubted it, and it was the received opinion all over Europe. One of her husband’s old domestics told me the name of the person who, as he thought, gave the poison. “This man,” said he, “whose circumstances were but narrow, immediately afterward retired into Normandy, where he purchased an estate upon which he lived a long time in opulence.” The poison was a diamond reduced to powder, and strewed over strawberries, instead of sugar. The court and city were of opinion that the princess was poisoned with a glass of succory water; after which she felt insupportable pangs, and in a short time died in convulsions.
But the malice of mankind, and a love for the marvellous, were the sole causes of this general persuasion. There could have been no poison in the glass of water, since Madame de la Fayette and another drank the remainder of it without being in the least affected. The powder of diamond is no more poisonous than the powder of coral. The princess had been a long time troubled with an abscess formed in her liver. She was in a very bad state of health, and had even been brought to bed of a child entirely putrefied. Her husband, who has been much suspected all over Europe, was never accused of any crime, either before or after this event: and there are but few instances of criminals who have been guilty of only one inhuman action. The human species would be indeed unhappy if atrocious deeds were as often committed as believed.
It was said that the chevalier of Lorraine, a favorite of the duke of Orleans, had recourse to this horrible vengeance on account of his being banished and imprisoned for his ill behavior to the princess. People do not reflect that the chevalier of Lorraine was then at Rome, and that it is difficult for a Knight of Malta, of twenty years of age, to occasion, when at Rome, the death of a great princess at Paris.
It is but too true that a weakness and indiscretion of the viscount de Turenne was what first gave rise to these invidious reports, which men take a pleasure in reviving. At the age of sixty he was the lover and the dupe of Madame Coatquen, as he had been before of Madame de Longueville. He disclosed to that lady the secret of state, which was concealed from the king’s brother. Madame de Coatquen, who loved the chevalier of Lorraine, divulged it to her gallant, who informed the duke of Orleans of it. The family of this prince was deluged with the bitterest reproaches and the most tormenting jealousies. These vexations began before the princess’ voyage to England. The evil was aggravated by her return. The duke’s sallies of passion, and the frequent contentions of his favorites with the friends of the duchess, filled the house with trouble and confusion. The duchess, a few days before her death, tenderly complained to the marchioness of Coatquen of the misfortunes which she had occasioned. That lady kneeled down by her bedside and, bathing her hands with tears, answered only by these verses from the tragedy of “Wenceslaus:”
j’allois—j’étais—l’amour a sur moi tant d’empire Je m’égare, Madame, & ne puis que vous dire.
I thought—I was—love reigns with boundless sway—
In mazes lost—I know not what to say!
The chevalier of Lorraine, who had caused all these dissensions, was immediately sent by the king to the prison of Pierre Encise; the count Marsan, of the house of Lorraine, and the marquis, afterward marshal, of Villeroi, were banished. In a word, the natural death of this unhappy princess was looked upon as the consequence of these misunderstandings.
The public belief that the duchess of Orleans had been poisoned was greatly confirmed by this crime’s becoming prevalent in France at that juncture. Amidst all the horrors of a civil war, this base method of revenge was never put in practice. This crime, by an unaccountable fatality, infected France at the time of its greatest glory, and of pleasures calculated to soften the manners of mankind, just as it gained ground in Rome during the most shining period of the commonwealth.
Two Italians, one of whom went by the name of Exili, labored for a long time in conjunction with an Italian apothecary named Glaser, to discover the philosopher’s stone. Having lost the little fortune they had, they endeavored to repair their loss by carrying on a criminal commerce. They secretly sold poisons. Confession, one of the greatest restraints upon human depravity, but which men frequently abuse in the belief that they may commit crimes and afterward expiate them; confession, I say, made it known to the chief penitentiary of Paris that some persons had died by poison. He gave immediate notice of this to the government. The two Italians, who were suspected, were confined in the Bastille; one of them died there. Exili continued in confinement without being convicted; and from the midst of a prison he spread over Paris those fatal secrets which cost the civil lieutenant Daubrai and his family their lives, and at last gave occasion to erecting the chamber of poisons, commonly called “The Fiery Chamber.”
Love was the original source of these shocking adventures. The marquis of Brivilliers, son-in-law of the civil lieutenant, Daubrai, lodged in his house St. Croix, a captain in his regiment, who was remarkable for his agreeable person. His wife suggested to him the ill consequences that this might produce. The husband, however, was obstinantely bent upon having the young man live in the same house with his wife, who was young, handsome, and very susceptible. The event was such as might have been expected; they conceived a mutual passion for each other. The civil lieutenant, father of the marchioness, was severe and imprudent enough to cause the captain to be sent to the Bastille, when it would have been sufficient to send him to his regiment. St. Croix unluckily happened to be confined in the same chamber with Exili. This Italian taught him to wreak his revenge. The consequences, which are enough to make one shudder with horror, are universally known.
The marchioness did not make any attempt upon the life of her husband, who considered with indulgence a passion of which he himself had been the cause; but her ardent desire of vengeance impelled her to poison her father, her two brothers, and her sister. Though guilty of such execrable crimes, she retained a sense of religion: she often went to confession; and even when she was apprehended at Liège, a general confession written with her own hand was found upon her. This was not considered as a positive proof of her guilt, but only as a presumptive. It is not true that she made experiments of the efficacy of her powders in the hospitals, according to the popular report which has been adopted by the author of the remarkable trials, the work of a lawyer without employment, and calculated to amuse the vulgar. But it is true that both she and St. Croix had private dealings with persons since accused of the same crimes. She was burned in 1679, her head being first cut off. But this crime continued to infect Paris from 1670, when Exili began to compound poisons, till 1680. It cannot be concealed from the world that Pennautier, receiver-general for the clergy, and the friend of this woman, was accused some time after of having made use of these secrets, and that it cost him one-half of his wealth to stifle the accusation.
La Voisin, la Vigoueaux, a priest named le Sage, and others dealt in Exili’s secrets, under the pretext of amusing persons of curious and weak minds with the sight of apparitions. The crime was imagined to be more general than it really was. The Fiery Chamber was established at the arsenal near the Bastille in 1680. Persons of the first quality were cited before it: among others, two nieces of Cardinal Mazarin, the duchess of Bouillon, and the countess of Soissons, mother of Prince Eugene. They were not ordered into custody, as we are told in the history of Reboulet. He is not less mistaken when he asserts that the duchess appeared before her judges with so many friends that she would have been in no danger even if she had been guilty. What friends could at that time have screened anybody from justice? The duchess of Bouillon was accused of nothing but indulging an absurd curiosity.
The countess of Soissons, who retired to Brussels, was charged with something of a more serious nature. The marshal of Luxembourg was confined in the Bastille, and underwent a long examination, after which he remained fourteen months longer in prison. It is easy to conjecture the shocking reports which these accusations gave rise to in Paris. At length, upon la Voisin and her accomplices being burned alive, these crimes and inquiries discontinued. This abomination, however, was peculiar to some individuals, and did not corrupt the refined manners of the nation: but it left in the minds of men an unhappy propensity to suspect natural death of being occasioned by violent means.
The same opinion which had been formed concerning the unhappy fate of Henrietta of England, duchess of Orleans, was afterward revived with respect to her daughter, Mary Louisa, who was married in 1679 to Charles II., king of Spain. That young princess set out for Madrid with regret. Mademoiselle had often said to the duke of Orleans, brother to the king, “Do not carry your daughter so often to court; she will be too unhappy elsewhere.” This young princess was desirous of marrying the dauphin. “I make you queen of Spain,” said the king, “what more could I do for my daughter?” “Ah!” returned she, “you might do much more for your niece.” She died in the year 1689, at the same age as her mother. It was regarded as an incontestable truth that the Austrian council of Charles II. was desirous of removing her out of the way, because she loved her country, and might prevent the king, her husband, from declaring for the allies, against France. An antidote was sent her from Versailles; but these remedies are very precarious, since what may cure one disorder occasioned by poison may increase another; and there is no universal antidote. The pretended counter-poison arrived after her death. Those who have read the memoirs compiled by the marquis de Dangeau, will find therein that the king said at supper, “The queen of Spain has been poisoned by eating of an eel-pie; and the countess of Pernitz, with the two attendants Zapata and Nina, eating it also, have lost their lives by the same poison.”
After having read this extraordinary anecdote in these manuscript memoirs, which are said to have been carefully written by a courtier, who had scarcely ever quitted Louis XIV. during the space of forty years, I still entertain some doubt. I inquired of the king’s ancient domestics, whether it was true that a king always so reserved in his discourse had expressed himself in so indiscreet a manner. They all assured me that nothing could be more false. I asked the duchess of St. Pierre, on her return from Spain, whether the three persons mentioned had died at the same time as the queen; she gave me convincing proofs that they had all three survived their mistress. In a word, I discovered that these memoirs of the marquis de Dangeau were nothing more than a collection of news, written by one of his footmen; and this may be very easily perceived by the style, the trifling circumstances, and the falsehoods with which it abounds. After all these dismal ideas, to which the death of Henrietta of England has led us, we must now return to those events by which her loss was followed at court. The princess palatine succeeded her a year after, and was mother of the duke of Orleans, afterward regent of the kingdom. She was under the necessity of abjuring Calvinism, in order to marry the duke of Orleans; but she always retained a secret veneration for her own religion, which is not easily shaken off when it has been impressed upon the mind from infancy.
The unfortunate adventure of one of the queen’s maids of honor in 1673, gave rise to a new institution. This misfortune is well known by the sonnet of the abortion, which has been so frequently cited.
The dangerous situation of maid of honor in a gay and voluptuous court occasioned twelve ladies of the bedchamber to be substituted in the room of the twelve maids of honor; and this regulation has ever since continued in the queen’s household. This institution rendered the court more numerous and magnificent, by fixing there the husbands and relatives of these ladies, which increased the number of those who attended the court, and made it more brilliant.
The princess of Bavaria, who had espoused the dauphin, added lustre and vivacity to the court. The marchioness of Montespan always attracted the chief attention: but at last she ceased to please; and her violent emotions of grief by no means conciliated the almost alienated affection of the monarch. However, her connection with the court always continued, as she was possessed of a responsible place there, being superintendent of the queen’s household. Her connection with the king remained likewise on account of the children he had by her, the force of habit, and the ascendency she had acquired.
She retained all the outward show of esteem and friendship, but that was no consolation to her; and the king, afflicted at being the occasion of her frequent inquietudes, and inspired by another passion, already began to find pleasure in conversing with Madame de Maintenon, which he no longer enjoyed with his former mistress. He found himself at once divided between Madame de Montespan, whom he could not forsake, Mademoiselle Fontagne, whom he loved, and Madame de Maintenon, whose conversation was necessary to his distracted mind. The rivalry of these three kept the whole court in suspense. It reflects great honor on Louis XIV. that none of these intrigues had any influence on public affairs; and that love, which disturbed the court, never caused the least disturbance in the kingdom. There cannot, in my opinion, be a better proof that the soul of Louis was as great as it was tender.
I should even look upon these court intrigues, which have no connection with state affairs, as undeserving of a place in this history, if the name of Louis XIV. did not render everything interesting, and if the veil had not been removed from those mysteries by several historians, who have for the most part disfigured them.
NOTES TO CHAPTER XXIV.
Montespan.—At the end of the memoirs above mentioned is printed a history of the amours of Mademoiselle and M. de Lauzun. It is the work of some valet de chambre. Verses on a parallel with the history are subjoined, and with all the absurdities which the Dutch book-sellers have long had a sort of a privilege to impose upon the world.
We should place in the same class most of the stories concerning Mademoiselle to be met with in the memoirs of Madame de Maintenon: it is there said, that, in 1681, one of the ministers of the duke of Lorraine came disguised like a beggar, and presenting himself before Mademoiselle in church, showed her a prayer-book upon which was written: “From the duke of Lorraine,” and that he afterward endeavored to prevail on her to declare the duke her heir. (Vol. ii., page 204.) This fable is copied from the adventure of Queen Clothilde; whether true or false, Mademoiselle takes no notice of it in her memoirs, in which she seldom omits little circumstances. The duke of Lorraine had no pretensions to the succession of Mademoiselle: add to this that she had in 1679 appointed the duke of Maine and the count of Toulouse her heirs.
The author of these wretched memoirs says, on page 207, that the duke of Lauzun, on his return, looked upon Mademoiselle in no other light but as a woman inflamed by an impure passion. She was his wife, and he himself acknowledged it. It is hardly possible to write a greater number of falsehoods in a more indecent style.
The youth and beauty of Mademoiselle de Fontagne, the birth of a son, whom she bore to the king in 1680, and the title of duchess, with which she was graced, all conspired to prevent Madame de Maintenon from obtaining the first place, to which, as yet, she dared not aspire, and which she afterward possessed; but the duchess of Fontagne and her son died in 1681.
The marchioness de Montespan, having now no declared rival, was no longer able to preserve a heart wearied with her and her eternal complainings. When men are past the vigor of youth, they almost all require the company of an agreeable woman; the weight of public affairs, especially, renders such a relaxation extremely necessary. The new favorite, Madame de Maintenon, who perceived the secret power she was daily acquiring, conducted herself with that artful address which is so natural to the female sex, and is by no means displeasing to the male. She one day wrote to Madame de Frontenac, her cousin, in whom she reposed the most perfect confidence: “When he leaves me, he is always in affliction, but never in despair.” While her interest was thus increasing, and that of Madame de Montespan was drawing toward an end, the two rivals saw each other every day, sometimes with a secret uneasiness, and sometimes with a transient familiarity, which the necessity of conversing together and the fatigue of perpetual constraint obliged them to assume. They both agreed to write memoirs of all that passed at court. The work was never brought to any degree of perfection. Madame de Montespan was wont, in the latter years of her life, to divert herself in reading some of these memoirs to her friends. That spirit of devotion, which mingled itself in all these secret intrigues, contributed still more to strengthen the influence of Madame de Maintenon, and to weaken that of Madame de Montespan. The king began to reproach himself for his attachment to a married woman, and felt this scruple the more sensibly as he no longer felt the power of love. Things continued in this state of perplexity until 1685, a year rendered memorable by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Scenes of a very different nature were then presented to the public view: on the one hand, the despair and flight of a part of the nation; on the other, new feasts at Versailles, Trianon and Marly built, Nature forced in all these beautiful spots, and gardens formed with all the taste and elegance that art could bestow. The marriage of the grandson of the great Condé to Mademoiselle de Nantes, the king’s daughter by Madame de Montespan, was the last triumph of that mistress, who now began to retire from court.
The king afterward disposed in marriage of two other children whom he had by the same lady; Mademoiselle de Blois to the duke de Chartres, whom we have since seen regent of the kingdom; and the duke de Maine to Louisa Benedicta de Bourbon, granddaughter of the great Condé, and sister of the present duke, a princess distinguished by her wit, and her taste for the polite arts. Those who have approached the royal palace, or the palace de Sceaux, know that all the popular reports relating to her marriage, and retailed in so many histories, are absolutely false and groundless. You will find it reported in more than twenty different volumes, that the house of Orleans and the house of Condé rejected the proposals with indignation: you will find it written that the princess, the duke de Chartres’s mother, threatened her son; nay, that she even beat him. The “Anecdotes of the Constitution,” relates, with a very serious air, that the king having employed Abbé du Bois, sub-preceptor to the duke de Chartres, to negotiate the match, the abbé found great difficulty in succeeding; and that he asked the cardinal’s hat as a reward for his labor. Whatever relates to the court is written with as little regard to truth in several of our modern histories.
Before the marriage between the duke and Mademoiselle de Nantes was celebrated, the marquis de Seignelay gave the king an entertainment worthy of that monarch in the gardens de Sceaux, laid out by Lenôtre with as much taste and elegance as those of Versailles; and the entertainment was embellished by a representation of “L’Idylle de laPaix,” composed by Racine. There was another tournament at Versailles; and, after the marriage, the king displayed a scene of uncommon magnificence, of which Cardinal Mazarin had given the first specimen in 1656. There were placed in the hall of Marly four shops, filled with all the richest and most exquisite curiosities that the industry of the Parisian artists could produce. These four shops were so many superb decorations, representing the four seasons of the year. Madame de Montespan kept one of them with the dauphin; her rival kept another with the duke de Maine. The two newly-married noblemen had each his shop; the duke with Madame de Thiange; and the duchess, who, on account of her youth, could not decently keep a shop with a man, was with Madame de Chevereuse. The ladies and gentlemen who were named for this excursion drew by lot the jewels with which these shops were adorned. Thus the king made presents to all his court, in a manner worthy of himself. The lottery of Cardinal Mazarin was neither so ingenious nor so brilliant. These lotteries had formerly been used by the Roman emperors; but none of them ever thought of heightening their magnificence by such an air of gallantry
After the marriage of her daughter, Madame de Montespan appeared no more at court. She continued to live in Paris with great dignity. She had a large annuity settled upon her for life; the king ordered a pension of a thousand louis d’or to be paid her every month. She went yearly to drink the waters at Bourbon; and married the young women in the neighborhood, to whom she gave portions. She was now past the age when the imagination, struck with lively impressions, sends people to a nunnery. She died at Bourbon in 1707.
About a year after the marriage of Mademoiselle de Nantes, the prince of Condé died at Fontainebleau, in the sixty-sixth year of his age. His death was occasioned by a disease which was rendered more violent by a journey he took to visit the duchess, who was seized with smallpox. From this anxious concern for the safety of the duchess, which cost him his life, one may easily judge whether he had any aversion to the marriage of his grandson with the daughter of the king and Madame de Montespan, as has been reported by all those lying gazettes with which Holland was then overrun. We even find, in a history of the prince of Condé, produced from the same repositories of ignorance and imposture, that the king took pleasure in mortifying that prince on all occasions; and that, at the marriage of the princess of Conti, daughter to Madame de la Vallière, the secretary of state refused him the title of High and Mighty Lord, as if that were a title commonly given to the princes of the blood. But how could the author, who composed the history of Louis XIV. in Avignon, partly from these wretched memoirs, be so ignorant of the world, and of the custom of our court, as to relate the like falsehoods?
Meanwhile, after the marriage of the duchess, and the total eclipse of the mother, Madame de Maintenon, victorious over all opposition, gained such an ascendency, and inspired Louis XIV. with so much love, and so many scruples of conscience, that, by the advice of Father de la Chaise, he married her privately in the month of January, 1686, in a little chapel, which stood at the end of the apartment that was afterward possessed by the duke of Burgundy. There was no contract, nor any articles of marriage. Harlay de Chanvalon, archbishop of Paris, assisted by the confessor, gave them the nuptial benediction. Montchevreuil and Bontems, first valet de chambre, were present as witnesses. It is no longer possible to suppress this fact, which has been mentioned by so many authors, who have been mistaken, however, with regard to the names, the place, and the dates. Louis XIV. was then in his forty-eighth year, and the lady he married in her fifty-second. This king, already covered with glory, was desirous of mingling the innocent pleasures of a private life with the cares of state. The marriage did not engage him in anything unworthy of his rank; and it was always a doubtful point at court, whether Madame de Maintenon was married or not. She was respected as the choice of the king, but never treated as queen.
We are apt to consider the fate of this lady as something very surprising, though history supplies us with many instances of greater and more distinguished fortunes, which had a meaner and lower origin. The marchioness de St. Sebastian, married to Victor Amadeus, king of Sardinia, was not superior to Madame de Maintenon; Catherine, empress of Russia, was greatly inferior; and the first wife of James II., king of England, was far beneath her, according to the prejudices of Europe, unknown in other parts of the world.
She was of an ancient family, and granddaughter of Theodore-Agrippa d’Aubigné, gentleman of the bedchamber to Henry IV. Her father, Constant d’Aubigné, having formed a design of settling in Carolina, and having applied to the English for that purpose, was thrown into prison in the castle of Trompette; whence he was delivered by the daughter of the governor, whose name was de Cardillac, a gentleman of Bourdelois. Constant d’Aubigné married his benefactress in 1627, and carried her along with him to Carolina: but returning to France, in a few years after, they were both committed to custody, at Niort in Poitou, by order of the court. It was in this prison of Niort that Frances d’Aubigné was born in 1635: a woman destined by heaven to suffer all the hardships and to enjoy all the favors of fortune. Carried to America at three years of age; left on the shore by the negligence of a servant, where she was on the point of being devoured by a serpent; brought back an orphan at ten years of age; educated with great severity in the house of Madame de Neuillant, a relative, and mother of the duchess de Navailles. She was so happy as to marry, in 1651, Paul Scarron, who lived near her in Hell street. Scarron was of an ancient family belonging to the parliament, and illustrious by its great alliances; but the character of a wit, and of burlesque writer, which he bore, lessened his dignity, although it made him more generally beloved. It was, however, a very lucky incident for Mademoiselle d’Aubigné to get this man for a husband, deformed and impotent as he was, and possessed of but a small fortune. Before her marriage, she abjured the Calvinistic religion, which was her own as well as that of her ancestors. Her beauty and her wit were such that she soon began to be distinguished. Her acquaintance was eagerly courted by the best company in Paris; and this part of her youth was doubtless the happiest time of her life. After her husband’s death, in 1660, she solicited the king for a small pension of fifteen hundred livres, which Scarron had enjoyed. At last, after some years had elapsed, the king gave her a pension of two thousand; addressing her at the same time in the following strain: “Madame, I have made you wait long; but you have so many friends that I was determined to have all the merit of this action to myself.”
This anecdote I had from Cardinal de Fleury, who took pleasure in frequently repeating it, because he said that Louis XIV. paid him the same compliment when he gave him the bishopric of Fréjus.
And yet it appears, from the letters of Madame de Maintenon herself, that she was indebted to Madame de Montespan for this small supply, which delivered her from extreme poverty. She was again noticed some years after, when there was a necessity for educating privately the duke de Maine, whom the king had in 1670 by the marchioness de Montespan. It was not surely until the year 1672 that she was chosen to superintend this private education. She says, in one of her letters, “If the children are the king’s, I will cheerfully undertake the task; but I would not willingly take the charge of Madame de Montespan’s children; the king must therefore give me orders; this is my last word.” Madame de Montespan had not two children until 1672, the duke de Maine, and the count de Vexin. Hence it is evident that the dates of Madame de Maintenon’s letters in 1670, in which she speaks of those two children, one of whom was not yet born, must necessarily be false. Almost all the dates of these printed letters are equally erroneous. This inaccuracy would give one reason to suspect the authenticity of these letters, did we not discover in them such strong marks of truth and ingenuity as it is almost impossible to counterfeit.
It is a matter of no great consequence to know in what particular year this lady undertook the care of the natural children of Louis XIV., but the attention given to these minute circumstances may serve to show with what scrupulous exactness we have related the principal events in this history.
The duke de Maine was born with a deformed foot. The first physician, d’Aquin, who was in the secret, advised sending him to the waters of Barèges. Strict search was made for a person of integrity who might be intrusted with this precious charge. The king mentioned Madame Scarron. M. de Louvois went privately to Paris to make the proposal to her. From that time she had the care of the duke de Maine’s education, being appointed to that employment by the king, and not by Madame de Montespan, as has been reported. She immediately wrote to the king, who was greatly charmed with her letters. Such was the beginning of her good fortune; her merit completed the rest.
The king, who at first could not endure her company, passed by degrees from aversion to confidence, and from confidence to love. His letters, which still remain, are a much more precious treasure than is commonly imagined: they discover the mixture of religion and gallantry, of dignity and weakness, which is so frequently to be found in the human mind, and which filled the soul of Louis XIV. The mind of Madame de Maintenon seems, at once, to be inspired with a true ambition, and a true devotion. Her confessor, Gobelin, approves equally of both: he is alike a director and a courtier. His penitent, though guilty of ingratitude to Madame de Montespan, still continues to dissemble her crime. The confessor encourages the illusion; and she calls in religion to the assistance of her superannuated charms, in order to supplant her benefactress, who has now become her rival.
This strange mixture of love and scruples on the part of the king, and of ambition and devotion on the part of the new mistress, seems to have continued from 1680 till 1686, which was the era of their marriage.
Her elevation was only a retreat. Shut up in her apartment, which was on the same floor with that of the king, she confined herself to the company of two or three ladies, who had retired like herself; and even these she saw but seldom. The king went to her chamber every day after dinner, and before and after supper, and tarried with her until midnight. He there deliberated with his ministers; while Madame de Maintenon employed herself in reading, or in needlework; never displaying the least forwardness to talk of state affairs; frequently seeming to be ignorant of them; carefully avoiding everything that might have the least appearance of cabal or intrigue; more desirous of pleasing him that governed, than of governing herself; and husbanding her interest with the greatest economy, by never employing it without extreme circumspection. She did not avail herself of her place, to make all the dignities and great employments fall into her family. Her brother, the count d’Aubigné, though an old lieutenant-general, was not even a marshal of France. A blue ribbon, and some appropriation in the farms of the public revenues, were his only fortune: hence it was said to Marshal de Vivonne, brother of Madame de Montespan, that he had received his marshal’s staff in ready money.
The marquis de Villette, her nephew, or her cousin, was only a commodore. Madame de Cailus, daughter of the marquis de Villette, had but a very small portion given her in marriage by Louis XIV. Madame de Maintenon, when she married her niece, d’Aubigné, to the son of the first marshal de Noailles, gave her but two hundred thousand livres; the king made up the rest. She endeavored to make the public excuse her elevation, in favor of her disinterestedness. The wife of the marquis de Villette, who was afterward Lady Bolingbroke, could obtain nothing from her. I have frequently heard her say that she upbraided her cousin with the little service she did her family; and that she told her in a passion: “You obstinately persist to act up to your moderate plan, and your family must be the victim of your moderation.” Madame de Maintenon forgot everything, when she was in the least apprehensive of offending Louis XIV. She had not even the courage to support Cardinal de Noailles against Father Letellier. She had a great friendship for Racine; but that friendship was not strong enough to protect him against a slight resentment of the king. One day, being deeply affected with the eloquence with which he represented the calamities of the people in 1698, calamities which are always exaggerated, but which have since been carried to a deplorable pitch, she prevailed upon her friend to draw up a memorial, pointing out the evil and the remedy. The king, having read it, and shown himself dissatisfied with the contents, she had the weakness to name the author, and to promise not to defend him. Racine, still weaker, if possible, than she, was seized with excessive grief, which brought him to the grave.
The disposition which rendered her incapable of doing a service made her likewise incapable of doing an injury. Abbé de Choisy relates that the minister Louvois fell on his knees before Louis XIV. in order to dissuade him from marrying the widow Scarron. If Abbé de Choisy knew this fact, Madame de Maintenon was not ignorant of it; and yet she not only forgave that minister, but she even appeased the first transports of passion into which the blunt behavior of the marquis de Louvois sometimes threw his master.
Hence it appears, that Louis XIV. in marrying Madame de Maintenon, only gave himself an agreeable, submissive companion. The only public distinction that discovered her private elevation was, that at mass she occupied one of those little pulpits, or gilded canopies, which seemed to be made for the king and queen. The devotion with which she had inspired the king, and which had contributed to facilitate her marriage, became by degrees a real and deep sense of religion, which was greatly strengthened by age and weariness. She had already acquired, both with the king and the court, the character of a foundress, by assembling at Noisi a number of young ladies of quality; and the king had appropriated the revenues of the abbey of St. Denis to this rising community. St. Cyr was built at the end of the park of Versailles in 1686. She gave this settlement a complete form, composed the regulations of it with Godet Desmarets, bishop of Chartres, and was herself the superior of the convent. She frequently went thither to pass a few hours; and when I say that melancholy determined her to follow these amusements, I only repeat her own words. Read what she wrote to Madame de la Maisonfort, of whom mention is made in the chapter on “Quietism.”
“Why cannot I give you my experience? Why cannot I make you sensible of the melancholy that devours the Great, and of the difficulty they have to dispose of their time? Do you not see that I die of lowness of spirits, though possessed of a more splendid fortune than ever I could have hoped to obtain? I have been young and handsome; I have tasted pleasures; I have been universally beloved. In a more advanced age, I have passed some years in the participation of intellectual pleasures; I am now arrived at the summit of fortune; and I assure you, my dear, that every condition leaves a horrid void in the soul.”
Could anything undeceive men with regard to the pleasures of an exalted station, this letter certainly would do it. Madame de Maintenon, who had no other cause of uneasiness than the uniformity of her life in the company of a great king, said one day to the count d’Aubigné, her brother, “I can bear it no longer, I wish I were dead.” The answer which her brother gave her is well known: “You have then got a promise,” said he, “of being married to the Almighty.”
Upon the king’s death, she retired wholly to St. Cyr. What is surprising is that the king left her no fixed salary. He recommended her to the duke of Orleans. She desired only a pension of eighty thousand livres. This annuity was regularly paid till her death, April 15, 1719. The author of her epitaph has affected too much to forget the name of Scarron; this name is not a disgrace, and the omission of it serves only to make one think that it is so.
The court became less gay and more serious, from the time that the king began to lead a retired life with Madame de Maintenon; and the severe fit of sickness he had in 1686 contributed still more to destroy his taste for those splendid feasts which he had hitherto celebrated almost every year. He was seized with a fistula in ano. The art of surgery, which under this reign had made greater progress in France than in all the rest of Europe, was not yet sufficiently acquainted with this condition. Cardinal de Richelieu had died of it, for want of proper treatment. The king’s danger alarmed the whole nation. The churches were filled with crowds of people, who, with tears in their eyes, implored the recovery of their sovereign. This expression of universal pity and lamentation was somewhat akin to that which happened in the present age, when his successor’s life was in danger at Metz in 1744. These two epochs will serve as perpetual monuments to remind kings of what they owe to a people who love them with such a warmth of affection.
As soon as Louis XIV. felt the first attacks of his disease, his chief surgeon, Felix, went to the hospitals to search for such patients as were in the same condition. He consulted the best surgeons; and, in conjunction with them, he invented some new instruments which abridged the operation, and rendered it less painful. The king suffered the operation without complaining: he caused his ministers to hold a council at his bedside the very same day; and that the news of his danger might occasion no change of measures in the courts of Europe, he gave audience to the foreign ambassadors next day. To this fortitude of mind may be added the generosity with which he rewarded Felix, to whom he gave an estate which was then worth fifty thousand crowns.
After this the king went no more to the public shows. The dauphiness of Bavaria, being seized with a deep melancholy, and oppressed with a lowness of spirits, which brought her to the grave in 1690, refused to join in any party of pleasure, and obstinately persisted in immuring herself in her chamber. She was fond of learning; she had composed some verses; but in her melancholy she was fond of nothing but solitude.
It was the convent of St. Cyr that revived the taste for the Polite arts. Madame de Maintenon entreated Racine, who had renounced the theatre for the court and Jansenism, to write a tragedy that might be acted by her pupils; and she desired the subject might be taken from the Bible. Racine composed “Esther.” This play, having been first represented in the convent of St. Cyr, was afterward acted several times at Versailles before the king in the winter of 1689. The prelates and Jesuits were eager to obtain permission to see this remarkable play.
It is somewhat surprising that this play was, at this time, universally approved; and that, two years after “Athalie,” which was acted by the same persons, was as universally condemned. The case was quite the reverse when they were played at Paris, long after the author’s death, and when all party distinctions were utterly abolished. “Athalie” was presented in 1717, and was received, as it deserved, with great applause; and “Esther,” which was presented in 1721, excited no other feeling in the breasts of the spectators than languor and weariness, and never appeared more. But there were now no courtiers so complaisant as to recognize Esther in Madame de Maintenon, and so malicious as to discover Vashti in Madame de Montespan, Haman in M. de Louvois, and especially the Huguenots, who were persecuted by that minister, in the proscription of the Jews. The impartial public could discover nothing in that piece but a plot without probability, and incapable of interesting the affections; and a frantic king, who had lived six months with his wife without knowing who she was, and who having, without the least pretext, given orders for butchering a whole nation, afterward caused his favorite to be hanged with as little reason. But, notwithstanding the imperfection of the plot, thirty lines of “Esther” are of more value than many tragedies which have met with great success. These ingenious amusements were revived in order to forward the education of Adelaide of Savoy, duchess of Burgundy, who was brought to France at eleven years of age.
It is one of the many contradictions in our manners, that theatrical exhibitions should be branded with a mark of infamy, and yet be considered as an amusement the most noble and most worthy of persons of royal birth. A little theatre was built in the apartments of Madame de Maintenon, on which the duchess of Burgundy and the duke of Orleans played with such persons of the court as were most remarkable for their wit and abilities. The famous actor, Baron, gave them lessons, and played with them. Most of the tragedies of Duché, valet de chambre to the king, were composed for this theatre; and Abbé Genêt, almoner to the duchess of Orleans, wrote some plays for the duchess of Maine, which that princess and her court represented.
These amusements formed the taste of and enlivened society. How could the marquis de la Fare say in his memoirs, that “after the death of the dauphiness, all was play, confusion, and impoliteness?” The courtiers frequently played in their excursions to Marly and Fontainebleau, but never in the apartment of Madame de Maintenon; and the court has always been considered as the standard of the most perfect politeness. The duchess of Orleans, then duchess of Chartres, the duchess of Maine, the princess of Conti, and Madame the duchess disproved by their conduct what the marquis de la Fare asserts. This man, in the social intercourses of life, discovered the greatest sweetness of temper, and yet his writings may almost be considered as a satire. He was dissatisfied with the government: he passed his time in a society of men who made a merit of condemning the court; and this society converted a man of a most amiable disposition into a historian who is sometimes unjust.
But neither he, nor any of those who have censured Louis XIV. with so much severity, can deny that till the battle of Höchstädt, he was the most powerful, the most magnificent, and the greatest man in the world: for though there have been heroes, such as John Sobieski and the kings of Sweden, who have eclipsed him as a warrior, no one has ever been able to eclipse him as a monarch. It must also be owned that he supported and repaired his losses. He had failings; he committed faults; but would those who condemn him have been able to equal him had they been in his place?
The duchess of Burgundy improved daily in beauty and merit. The praises bestowed upon her sister in Spain inspired her with an emulation, which redoubled her talent of pleasing. She was not a perfect beauty; but she had a countenance like that of her son, an air of grandeur, and a majestic stature. These advantages were greatly embellished by her wit, and still more by her extreme desire of meriting the praises of all the world. She was, like Henrietta of England, the idol and the pattern of the court, and possessed of a still higher rank, as she was on the point of ascending the throne. France expected from the duke of Burgundy such a government as the sages of antiquity have figured to themselves, but whose austerity would be softened by the virtues and accomplishments of this princess, which were of a nature to be more sensibly felt than the philosophy of her husband. Everybody knows how these hopes were frustrated. It was the fate of Louis XIV. to see all his family in France die premature deaths; his wife in the forty-fifth year of her age; his son in the fiftieth; and in a year after he had lost his son, he saw his grandson, the dauphin, his wife, and their eldest son, the duke of Brittany carried to St. Denis in the same funeral car, in April, 1712; while the youngest of their children, who afterward mounted the throne, was in his cradle at the point of death. The duke of Berry, brother of the duke of Burgundy, followed them two years after; and at the same time his daughter was carried from her cradle to her grave.
These lamentable losses made such a deep impression on the minds of men, that I have seen several persons in the minority of Louis XV. who could not mention them without tears: but amidst so many untimely deaths, the fate of him who seemed likely to fill the throne in a short time was most to be lamented.
The same suspicions which prevailed at the death of Madame, and at that of Maria Louisa, queen of Spain, were now revived with double fury. The excess of the public grief might almost have excused the calumny, could anything have excused it. It was unreasonable to suppose that anyone would have taken off, by a violent death, so many royal persons, and yet have left alive the only one that could avenge them. The disease of which the dauphin of Burgundy and his wife and son died was an epidemic purple fever. This distemper destroyed more than five hundred persons in Paris in the space of a month. The duke of Bourbon, grandson of the prince of Condé, the duke de la Trimouille, Madame de la Vallière, and Madame de Listenai, were seized with it at court. The marquis de Gondrin, son of the duke of Antin, died of it in two days. His wife, afterward countess of Toulouse, was at the point of death. This disease overran all France. In Lorraine it carried off the eldest son and daughter of Francis, that duke of Lorraine who was destined by heaven to be one day emperor, and to raise the house of Austria from its state of depression.
Meanwhile it was sufficient that a physician called Bouden, a debauched, forward, and ignorant fellow, used the following expression: “We do not understand such diseases.” This, I say, was sufficient to make calumny rage without control.
The prince had a laboratory, and studied chemistry, as well as several other arts; this was an unanswerable proof. The clamor of the public was so terrible that one must have been a witness of it in order to believe it. Several pamphlets, and some wretched histories of Louis XIV. would eternize these suspicions, did not men who have had better opportunities of information take pains to destroy them. I will venture to say that, as I have long been sensible of the injustice of mankind, I have made several inquiries to arrive at the truth; and the following account has been frequently repeated to me by the marquis de Canillac, one of the most worthy men in the nation, and intimately connected with the suspected prince, of whom he had afterward just reason to complain. The marquis de Canillac, amidst all this public clamor, went to visit him in his palace. He found him stretched at full length on the ground, bathed in tears, and frantic with despair. His chemist, Homberg, ran to the Bastille, to surrender himself a prisoner; but no orders had been given to receive him, and accordingly he was not admitted. The prince himself—who would believe it!—in the excess of his grief, desired to be taken into custody, and to have an opportunity of clearing his innocence by a formal trial; and his mother joined him in demanding this cruel satisfaction. The lettre de cachet was made out, but was not signed; and the marquis alone, amidst this general ferment, preserved so much presence of mind as to perceive the dangerous consequences of such a desperate measure. He prevailed upon the prince’s mother to oppose this ignominious lettre de cachet. The monarch who granted it, and the prince who demanded it, were equally unhappy.
NOTES TO CHAPTER XXV.
Montespan.—The memoirs published under the name of Madame de Maintenon relate that she said to Madame de Montespan, in speaking of her dreams: “I dreamed that we were on the grand staircase of Versailles; I was ascending, you were descending; I mounted to the clouds, you went to Fontevraut.” This story is borrowed from the famous duke d’Épernon, who met Cardinal Richelieu on the staircase of the Louvre in 1624. The cardinal asked him: “What news?” “None,” said he, “except that you are going up, and I am coming down.” But the beauty of the allusion is destroyed by adding that from a staircase one could mount to the clouds. It is to be remarked that in most books of anecdotes, in the era, the authors always ascribe to their speakers things that have been said a century, or even several centuries before.
Montchevreuil.—And not the chevalier de Fourbin, as the “Memoirs” of Choisy assert. None are intrusted with such a secret but faithful domestics and people attached by their place to the person of their master. There was no formal act of celebration: that is only employed to prove the reality of the wedding; but the present marriage was a marriage of conscience. How could anyone have the impudence to report, that after the death of Harlay, archbishop of Paris, which happened in 1695, almost ten years after the marriage, his lackeys found the form of the marriage ceremony in his old breeches? This story, which is even too mean for lackeys, is only to be found in the “Memoirs” of Maintenon.
Maintenon.—It is said, in the pretended “Memoirs” of Maintenon (tom. i, page 216) that for a long time she lay in the same bed with the celebrated Ninon l’Enclos, according to the hearsay reports of the abbé de Châteauneuf, and of the author of the “Age of Louis XIV.” But there is not a syllable of such an anecdote to be found in the author of the “Age of Louis XIV.” nor in the remaining works of the abbé de Châteauneuf. The author of Maintenon’s “Memoirs” quotes only at random. This circumstance is mentioned nowhere, except in the “Memoirs” of the marquis de la Fare, page 190, Amsterdam edition. It was a custom, it is true, for people to share their beds with their friends; and this custom, which is now extinct, was very ancient, even at court. We find, in the “History of France,” that Charles IX., in order to save the count de Brissac from the massacre of St. Bartholomew, advised him to sleep at the Louvre in his bed; and that the duke of Guise and the prince of Condé lay together for a long time.
Maintenon.—Who would imagine, that, in the “Memoirs of Madame de Maintenon” (iii, page 237), it should be said that this minister was afraid of being poisoned by the king. Strange that in Paris we should publish horrid falsehoods at the end of so many ridiculous fables.
This stupid and shocking story is founded on a common report, which was spread abroad after the death of the marquis de Louvois. This minister was using the waters, which Seron, his physician, had prescribed for him, and which la Ligerie, his surgeon, made him drink. This is the same Ligerie who gave the public the remedy which is now called the Poudre des Chartreux. This la Ligerie has frequently told me that he apprised M. de Louvois of the great risk he ran by laboring while he drank the waters. The minister, however, continued to attend to business as usual. He died suddenly on July 16, 1691, and not in 1692, as the author of these false memoirs asserts. La Ligerie opened his body and found no other cause of his death than what he had foretold. Some people suspected that Seron had poisoned a bottle of these waters. We have seen how common these injurious suspicions then were. It was pretended that a neighboring gentleman, whom Louvois had greatly provoked and abused, bribed Seron. Some of these anecdotes are to be found in the “Memoirs of the Marquis de Fare,” page 249. The family of the marquis de Louvois did even imprison a native of Lavay, who was a menial servant in the house; but this poor man, who was perfectly innocent, was soon released. But if people suspected, though very unreasonably, that a prince, who was an enemy to France, endeavored to take away the life of a minister of Louis XIV., this surely could never be a reason for suspecting Louis himself of the same crime.
The same author, who, in the “Memoirs of Madame de Maintenon,” has collected such a heap of falsehoods, alleges, in the same place, that the king said that he had got rid in one year of three men whom he could not endure; the marshal de la Feuillade, the marquis de Seignelay, and the marquis de Louvois. In the first place, M. de Seignelay did not die in 1691, but in 1690. In the second place, to whom did Louis XIV., who always spoke with great circumspection and like a gentleman; to whom did he address these imprudent and hateful words? To whom did he discover such a cruel and ungrateful heart? To whom could he say that he was glad that he had got rid of three men who had served him with so much zeal and fidelity? Is it lawful thus to blacken, without the least proof, without the least appearance of probability, the memory of a king, who was always known to speak with great prudence? Every sensible reader beholds with contempt and indignation this collection of lies, with which the public is surfeited.
Maintenon—The author of the “Memoirs of Madame de Maintenon” (tom. iv) in a chapter entitled “Mademoiselle Choin.” says that the dauphin was in love with one of his own sisters, and that he afterward married Mademoiselle Choin. These popular reports are known to be false by every sensible man. One should not only be a contemporary, but should be furnished with proofs before he ventures to advance such anecdotes as these. There never was the least evidence of the dauphin’s having married Mademoiselle Choin. To revive, after the expiration of sixty years, these common reports, so vague, so improbable, and so generally condemned, is not to write history; it is to compile at random the most scandalous falsehoods, in order to gain money. Upon what foundation has this writer the impudence to advance, in page 244, that the duchess of Burgundy said to her husband: “If I were dead, would you compose the third volume of your family?” He makes Louis XIV. and all the princes and ministers talk as though he had heard them. There is scarcely a page in the memoirs that is not filled with such barefaced lies as justly to excite the indignation of every virtuous person.
Louis the Great.—If greatness of soul consists in a love of pageantry, an ostentation of fastidious pomp, a prodigality of expense, an affectation of munificence, an insolence of ambition, and a haughty reserve of deportment, Louis certainly deserved the appellation of Great. Qualities which are really heroic we shall not find in the composition of his character.
Abbé Castel de St. Pierre, author of several strange performances, in which there are many things of a philosophical, but very few of a practical, nature, has left behind him some political annals, from 1658 till 1739, which are probably suppressed. He, in several places, condemns the administration of Louis XIV. with great severity; and will not, by any means, allow him the title of Louis the Great. If by Great he means perfect, this title to be sure does not belong to him; but from these memoirs written with the hand of that monarch, it appears that he had as good political principles at least as the abbé de St. Pierre.
Marquis de Canillac.—The author of the “Life of the Duke of Orleans” was the first that mentioned these cruel suspicions. He was a Jesuit of the name of La Motte, who preached at Rouen against this prince during his regency, and who afterward took refuge in Holland under the name of La Hode. He was acquainted with some public facts. He says (tom. i, p. 112) that the prince who was so unjustly suspected, offered to surrender himself a prisoner; and this is very true. La Motte had no opportunity of knowing how M. de Canillac opposed this step, which was so injurious to the prince’s innocence. All the other anecdotes he relates are false. Reboulet, who copied his, says (tom. viii, p. 143) the youngest child of the duke and duchess of Burgundy was saved by the counter-poison of Venice. There is no counter-poison of Venice that is thus given at random. Physic knows no general antidotes that cure a disease, the cause of which is unknown. All the stories which were spread abroad in the world at that unhappy time are no more than a collection of popular errors.
It is a falsehood of little consequence in the compiler of the “Memoirs of Madame de Maintenon” to say that the duke of Maine was then at the point of death. It is a childish calumny to say that the author of “The Age of Louis XIV.” rather confirms than destroys the credit of these stories.
Never was history disgraced with more absurd falsehoods than in these pretended memoirs. The author pretends to have written them in 1753. He supposes that the duke and duchess of Burgundy, and their eldest son, died of smallpox. He advances this falsehood to give himself an opportunity to speak of inoculation; an experiment that was not tried till May, 1756. Thus in the same page we find him speaking in 1753 of what happened in 1756; and he expresses himself thus: “This 24th of April, 1753, I was interrupted, an order came from the king to tear me from my family and myself.” He then relates how he was thrown into prison; and accuses persons who never saw him of having informed the government against him. The same man, in the edition of “The Age of Louis XIV.,” which he published at Frankfort in 1752, had attacked, in his notes, the memory of the duke of Orleans, on pp. 346 and 347, tom. ii of this spurious edition.
Learning has been infected with so many kinds of defamatory libels, and the Dutch have published so many false memoirs and injurious aspersions on the government and the people that it is the duty of every faithful historian to caution the reader against the imposture.
LAST YEARS OF LOUIS XIV.
Louis XIV. concealed his grief from the world, and appeared in public as usual: but in private the pain of so many misfortunes pierced him to the heart, and threw him into convulsions. He met with all these domestic losses toward the conclusion of an unsuccessful war, before he was sure of obtaining a peace, and at a time when famine laid waste the kingdom; and yet he was never seen to sink under his afflictions.
The remaining part of his life was unhappy. The disordered state of the finances, which he was unable to rectify, alienated the minds of the people. The unbounded confidence he placed in Father Letellier, a man of too violent passions, completed the disgust. It is remarkable that the public, who freely forgave him his love to his mistress, could never forgive him his attachment to his confessor. He lost, during the last three years of his life, in the minds of most of his subjects, all the respect and esteem he had gained by his great and memorable actions.
Deprived of almost all his children, his love which was now redoubled to the duke of Maine and the count of Toulouse, his illegitimate sons, caused him to declare them heirs to the crown, them and their descendants, in default of princes of the blood, by an edict that was registered without opposition in 1714. He thus tempered, by the law of nature, the severity of positive laws, which deprive children born out of marriage of all right of succeeding to their father’s estate: but kings dispense with this law. He thought he might safely do for his own blood what he had done for several of his subjects. He imagined, particularly, that he might make the same establishment for two of his children, which he had caused to be made in parliament for the princes of the house of Lorraine. He afterward raised them to the same rank as princes of the blood, in 1715. The suit commenced by the princes of the blood against the legitimated princes is well known. The latter preserved for themselves and their children the honors conferred on them by Louis XIV., but the fate of their posterity must depend on time, on merit, and on fortune. Louis XIV. was seized about the middle of August, 1715, on his return from Marly, with the disease that brought him to the grave. His legs were swelled; a mortification began to appear. The earl of Stair, the English ambassador, laid a wager, according to the custom of his country, that the king would not outlive the month of September. The duke of Orleans, who in his journey to Marly had no attendants, had now the whole court about him. An empiric, in the last days of the king’s illness, gave him an elixir which revived his spirits. He ate, and the empiric affirmed he would recover. The crowds which surrounded the duke of Orleans began to diminish apace. “If the king eats a second time,” said the duke of Orleans, “I shall not have a single person in my leveé.” But the disease was mortal. Measures were taken for giving the regency, with an absolute authority, to the duke of Orleans. The king by his will, which was deposited with the parliament, had left it to him under great limitations; or rather had only appointed him the head of a council of regency, in which he would have had only the casting vote: and yet he said to him: “I have preserved to you all the rights to which you are entitled by your birth.” The reason was, that he did not believe there was a fundamental law in the kingdom which gives, during a minority, an absolute power to the presumptive heir of the crown. This supreme authority, which may be easily abused, is no doubt dangerous; but a divided authority is still more dangerous. He imagined that, having been so faithfully obeyed during his life, he would be equally so after his death, not remembering that the will of his father had been violated.
Everybody knows with what greatness of soul he beheld the approach of death. He said to Madame de Maintenon, “I imagined it was more difficult to die;” and to his servants, “Why do you weep? Did you think me immortal?” He gave orders about several things, and even about the funeral solemnity. Whoever has many witnesses of his death, always dies with courage. Louis XIII., in his last illness, set to music the psalm De Profundis, which was to be sung at his funeral. The fortitude of mind with which Louis XIV. beheld his end was divested of that glare of ostentation which covered the rest of his life. He had the courage even to acknowledge his errors. His successor has always kept under his pillow the remarkable words which that monarch spoke to him as he sat up in his bed and held him in his arms. These words are not such as have been represented in all former histories. The following is a faithful copy:
“You are soon to be the king of a great kingdom. What I would chiefly recommend to you is never to forget the obligation you are under to God. Remember that you are indebted to Him for all that you are. Endeavor to preserve peace with your neighbors. I have been too fond of war; in this do not follow my example any more than in my too expensive manner of living. Take counsel in everything. Endeavor to distinguish what is best, and always take care to pursue it. Relieve your subjects as much as you can, and do what I have been so unhappy as not to be able to do myself,” etc.
This speech contains nothing of that meanness of spirit which is ascribed to him in some memoirs. He has been reproached for carrying some relics about him during the latter years of his life. His sentiments of religion were noble and elevated; but his confessor, who was of a different character, had subjected him to some practices little consistent with these sentiments, and now disused, in order to subject him the more absolutely to his direction.
Though the life and death of Louis XIV. were certainly glorious, yet was he less lamented than he deserved. The love of novelty; the approach of a minority, in which everyone hoped to make a fortune; the dispute about the constitution, which then exasperated the minds of the people, all conspired to make the news of his death be received with something more than indifference. We beheld the same people, who, in 1686, had importuned heaven with tears and sighs for the recovery of their sick monarch, follow his funeral procession with demonstrations of a very different nature. It is pretended that the queen, his mother, said to him when he was very young: “My son, imitate your grandfather and not your father.” The king having asked the reason, she said: “Because, the people wept at the death of Henry IV. and laughed at that of Louis XIII.”
Notwithstanding that he has been reproached with littleness of mind in his zeal against the Jansenists, with too much haughtiness to foreigners in his prosperity, with too great indulgence to several women, and too great severity in personal concerns, with wars undertaken without sufficient reason, with the burning of the Palatinate, and the persecution of the Protestants, yet his great qualities and glorious actions being placed in the scale have at last more than counterpoised all his imperfections. Time, which rectifies the opinions of mankind, has stamped his reputation with the seal of immortality; and in spite of all that has been written against him, his name will never be mentioned without respect, or without reviving the idea of an age forever memorable. If we consider him in his private character, we shall find him indeed too full of his own greatness; but withal affable, refusing his mother a share in the administration, but performing to her all the duties of a son, and observing the strictest rules of decency and decorum in his behavior to his wife; a good father, a good master, always decent in public, laborious in the cabinet, exact in the management of his affairs, thinking justly, speaking fluently, and amiable with dignity.
I have elsewhere remarked that he never spoke the words which have been ascribed to him, when the first gentleman of the bedchamber and the grand master of the wardrobe were disputing about the honor of serving him: “What does it signify which of my valets serves me?” Such a coarse expression could never be used by a man so polite and so considerate as Louis XIV., and agreed but ill with what he afterward said to one of these gentlemen when talking of his debts: “Why do you not speak to your friends?” Words of a very different meaning, and of great importance, being accompanied with a present of fifty thousand crowns.
Nor is it true, that he wrote to the duke de la Rochefoucauld: “I give you my compliments as your friend, with regard to the post of grand master of the wardrobe, which I give you as your king.” The historians have done him the honor of this letter, not remembering how very indelicate and even cruel it is to tell a man, whose master you are, that you are his master. This would be very proper were a sovereign writing to a rebellious subject; and Henry IV. might justly enough have said it to the duke of Mayenne before a reconciliation was effected. Rose, secretary of the closet, wrote the letter; but the king had too much good sense to send it. It was the same good sense that made him suppress the pompous inscriptions which Charpentier, of the French Academy, affixed to the paintings of Le Brun in the gallery of Versailles: “The Incredible Passage of the Rhine;” “The Marvellous Taking of Valenciennes,” etc. The king thought that “The Taking of Valenciennes,” and “The Passage of the Rhine,” were more expressive. Charpentier was in the right to adorn with inscriptions in our language the monuments of our country; flattery alone spoiled the execution.
Some smart answers, and witty expressions of this prince have been collected, which are reducible to a very small number. It is pretended that when he formed the design of abolishing Calvinism in France, he said: “My grandfather loved the Huguenots, and did not fear them; my father feared them, but did not love them; for my own part, I neither love nor fear them.”
Having given, in 1658, the place of first president of the Parliament of Paris to M. de Lamoignon, then master of requests, he said to him: “Had I known a worthier man, or a better subject, I would have chosen him.” He used much the same expression to Cardinal de Noailles, when he gave him the archbishopric of Paris. What constitutes the merit of these words is that they were true, and inspired a principle of virtue.
It is said that a foolish preacher having one day pointed him out at Versailles—a rashness that is not allowable toward a private man, and far less toward a king—Louis XIV. contented himself with saying to him: “Father, I like well enough to take my share of a sermon; but do not choose to be made the subject of it.” Whether he used this expression or not, it may serve as a lesson.
He always expressed himself with majesty and precision, studying in public to speak as well as to act like a sovereign. When the duke of Anjou was setting out on his journey to ascend the throne of Spain, he said to him, in order to mark the union which would for the future unite the two nations: “Remember there are now no Pyrenees.”
Nothing surely can set his character in a clearer light than the following memorial, written entirely with his own hand:
“Kings are frequently obliged to do many things contrary to their inclination, and which shock the natural humanity of their temper. They should take pleasure in doing favors, and they are often forced to punish, and even to ruin, those to whom they naturally wish well. The interest of the state should hold the first place. They must force their inclinations: they must act in every matter of importance, so as to have no cause to reproach themselves with the thought of having been able to do better: but some private interests prevented me from following this course, and engrossed that attention which I should have employed in promoting the grandeur, the happiness, and the power of the state. There are many circumstances that create uneasiness; there are some so intricate that it is difficult to unravel them. We have confused ideas; and while that is the case, we may remain long without coming to any determination; but the moment we have formed our resolution, and are convinced that it is the best, we should carry it into execution. It is to the observance of this maxim that I have frequently owed my success in several of my undertakings. The errors I have committed, and which have given me infinite pain, have been owing to complaisance, and to a too ready compliance with the advice of others. Nothing is so dangerous as weakness of every kind. To be able to command others we must raise ourselves above them; and after having heard the opinions of all parties, we must fix upon that which we judge to be best, without prejudice or partiality, always careful not to order or execute anything unworthy of ourselves, of the character we bear, or of the grandeur of the state. Princes who have good intentions, and some knowledge of their own affairs, whether by experience, study, or intense application, find so many ways of discovering their natural disposition, that they should take particular care of themselves and of all around them. We should constantly be on our guard against ourselves, our inclinations, and our natural propensities. The employment of a king is grand, noble, and agreeable, especially when he finds himself able to perform his duty; but it is not exempted from pain, fatigue, and inquietude. Uncertainty sometimes occasions despair; when, therefore, he has employed a reasonable time in examining an affair, he should come to a determination, and pursue the course which he thinks most advisable.
“When he labors for the state, he labors for himself; the welfare of the one constitutes the glory of the other. When the former is great, happy, and powerful, he who is the cause of all these advantages is glorious, and consequently should, both on his own account and that of his subjects, enjoy a greater share of all that is most pleasant and agreeable in life. When he has committed an error, he should repair it as soon as possible, and should allow no consideration to hinder him, not even good nature itself.
“In 1671 there died a man who had the post of secretary of state, being charged with the department of foreign affairs. He was a man of capacity, but not without faults. He filled that important post with great ability.
“I was some time in considering to whom I should commit this weighty charge; and, after mature deliberation, I found that a man who had long served me in the character of an ambassador was most likely to fill it with success.
“I ordered him to return home: all the world approved of my choice, which is not always the case. On his return I put him in possession of the post. I knew him only by report, and by the commissions with which I had charged him, and which he had executed with great fidelity; but the employment I had now given him was too great and too extensive for his narrow capacity. I have not availed myself of all the advantages I might have obtained, and this has always been owing to my complaisance and good nature. At last I was obliged to order him to retire, because all that passed through his hands, lost that air of grandeur and importance which should ever attend the execution of the orders of a king of France. Had I been so wise as to have removed him sooner, I should have prevented many of the misfortunes which afterward befell me, and should have had no cause to reproach myself with allowing my indulgence to him to hurt the state. These particulars I have thought proper to mention, in order to confirm the truth of what I advanced above.”
This precious and hitherto unknown monument will serve to convince posterity of the integrity of his heart, and the greatness of his soul. We may even say that he judges himself with too much severity; and that he has no cause to reproach himself with regard to M. de Pompone, since the great services and reputation of that minister determined the prince’s choice, which was likewise confirmed by the general approbation of the public; and if he condemns himself for his choice of M. de Pompone, who at least had the happiness to serve during a glorious period, what should he say with regard to M. de Chamillard, whose ministry was so unfortunate and so universally condemned?
He had written several memoirs in this style, either with a view of keeping an account of his own conduct, or for the instruction of the dauphin, duke of Burgundy. These reflections succeeded the events: he would have attained nearer to perfection, to which his merit entitled him to aspire, had he been able to form to himself a philosophy superior to the politics and prejudices of the times—philosophy which, in the space of so many centuries, we have seen practised by so few sovereigns, and which kings are very excusable for not understanding, since it is understood by so few private men.
The following are a few of the many instructions which Louis XIV. gave to his grandson, Philip V., when he was setting out on his journey for Spain. He wrote them in haste, and with a negligence that shows the soul much better than a studied discourse. We behold in them the father and the king.
“Love the Spaniards, and all your subjects who are attached to your crown and person. Don’t prefer those that flatter you most; esteem such as, for the public good, will run the risk of displeasing you; these are your true friends.
“Promote the happiness of your subjects; and with this view never undertake a war until you are forced to it, and until you have fully weighed and examined the reasons for and against it in your council.
“Endeavor to lower your taxes; take care of the Indies, and of your fleets; give great attention to commerce, and live in a perfect union with France, nothing being so advantageous for both kingdoms as this union, which no power can resist.
“If you are obliged to make war, put yourself at the head of your army.
“Endeavor to re-establish your troops upon their former footing in all your dominions, and begin with those of Flanders.
“Never neglect business for pleasure; but form to yourself a kind of plan which will allow you proper times for amusements and diversions.
“Of these there are hardly any more innocent than hunting, and the pleasures of a country house, provided you are not too expensive in your decorations.
“Give great attention to business when anyone talks to you on that subject; hear much at first, without making any decision.
“When once you have acquired more knowledge, remember that it is your province to decide; but whatever experience you may have, be always sure to hear the opinions and reasonings of your council before you come to a decision.
“Exert your utmost sagacity and penetration, in order to find men of the greatest abilities, that so you may properly employ them.
“Take care that your viceroys and governors be always Spaniards.
“Treat everybody well; never say a disagreeable thing to anyone; but distinguish people of quality and merit.
“Show the grateful sense you have of the kindness of the late king, and all of those who have concurred in choosing you for his successor.
“Place great confidence in Cardinal Portocarrero, and let him know how much you are pleased with the conduct he has pursued.
“I think you ought to do something considerable for the ambassador who had the happiness to invite you into the kingdom, and to salute you first in the quality of a subject.
“Do not forget Bedmar, who is a man of merit, and is capable of serving you.
“Place an unreserved confidence in the duke d’Harcourt: he is a man of capacity and of honor, and will never give you any advice but what is for your interest.
“Keep all the French in order.
“Use your domestics well; but never admit them into too great a degree of familiarity, and far less of confidence. Employ them as long as they behave well; but send them back on the least fault they commit; and never support them against the Spaniards.
“Have no intercourse with the queen-dowager, but such as you cannot dispense with. See that she quits Madrid; but let her not go out of Spain. Wherever she is, observe her conduct, and never allow her to interfere in any affairs of state. Suspect the fidelity of those who have too much intercourse with her.
“Always love your relatives; remember the pain it cost them to part with you: preserve a constant intercourse with them, as well in small as in great things. Ask from us freely whatever you either want or desire to have, that is not to be found in your own country, and we will use the same freedom with you.
“Never forget that you are a Frenchman, nor what may possibly befall you. When you have secured the succession of Spain by children, visit your kingdoms, go to Naples and Sicily, pass over to Milan, and come to Flanders. This will give you an opportunity of paying us a visit. Meanwhile visit Catalonia, Aragon, and other places. See what improvements may be made at Ceuta.
“Throw some money to the people when you are in Spain, and especially when you enter Madrid.
“Don’t seem to be shocked at the strange figures you may see. Ridicule nothing; every country has its particular manners; and you will soon be familiarized to what at first may appear most surprising.
“Avoid, as much as possible, the granting of favors to those who give you money in order to obtain them. Give with discretion and liberality; and never receive any presents, unless they be trifles. If it should sometimes happen that you are obliged to receive them, be always sure, in a few days after, to return greater presents to those who gave them.
“Have a strong box, in which you may deposit anything particular, and keep the key of it yourself.
“I shall conclude with one of the most important advices I can give you. Do not suffer yourself to be governed. Be master yourself. Have no favorite, nor prime minister. Hear and consult your council; but decide yourself. And God, who has made you king, will give you such degrees of light and knowledge as are necessary for you, in proportion to the rectitude of your intentions.”
Louis XIV. was more remarkable for a just and noble manner of thinking than for brilliant sallies of wit. Besides, we do not expect that a king should say memorable things, but that he should do them. What is necessary for every man in power is that he should never suffer anyone to leave his presence in a bad humor; but should render himself agreeable to all who approach him. We cannot always do generous actions; but we can always say obliging things. Louis had acquired this excellent habit. Between him and his court there was a perpetual interchange of all the graces that majesty could show without being degraded; and all the arts which eagerness to serve, and solicitude to please, could show without abasement. In the company of the ladies especially, he displayed a politeness and complaisance which increased that of his courtiers; and with the men he never missed an opportunity of saying such things as flattered their self-love, at the same time that they excited their emulation, and left a deep impression on the mind.
One day the duchess of Burgundy, when she was very young, observing an officer at supper, who was remarkably disagreeable, began to jest on his ugliness with great freedom, and in a very high tone: “I think him, madam,” said the king, in a still higher tone, “one of the handsomest men in my kingdom; for he is one of the bravest.”
A general officer, a man of blunt address, and who had not polished his manners even in the court of Louis XIV., had lost an arm in an engagement, and was making his complaints to the king, who, however, had rewarded him as much as the loss of an arm could be recompensed: “I wish,” said he, “I had lost my other arm likewise, that so I might never serve your majesty more.” “I should have been extremely sorry for that,” said the king, “both on your account and my own;” and immediately granted him a considerable favor. He was so far from saying disagreeable things, which in the mouth of a prince are deadly arrows, that he never indulged himself, even in the most innocent and harmless railleries, while private men daily use the most severe and cruel.
He frequently diverted himself, and even excelled in those ingenious things called impromptus, and agreeable songs; and he sometimes composed, extempore, little parodies on the songs most in vogue, such as this:
And this other, which he made one day in dismissing the council:
These trifles serve at least to show, that the charms of wit composed one of the pleasures of his court; that he partook in these pleasures; and that he was as capable of living like a private man, as of acting the great monarch on the theatre of the world.
His letter to the archbishop of Rheims, concerning the marquis de Barbèsieux, though in a very careless style, does more honor to his heart than the most ingenious thoughts could have done to his head. He had given this youth the post of secretary of war, which had been formerly possessed by his father, the marquis de Louvois: but being soon dissatisfied with the conduct of his new secretary, he resolved to correct him, without giving him too great mortification. With this view he applied to his uncle, the archbishop of Rheims, and desired him to advise his nephew; and shows himself a master informed of everything, while he had all the tenderness of a father.
“I know,” says he, “what I owe to the memory of M. de Louvois; but if your nephew does not alter his conduct, I shall be obliged to do what I shall be sorry for; but there will be a necessity for it. He has talents; but does not make a good use of them. He spends too much time in giving entertainments to the princes, instead of minding business: he neglects the public affairs for his pleasures. He makes the officers wait too long in his antechamber; he speaks to them with haughtiness, and even sometimes with rudeness.”
This is all that I remember of this letter, which I once saw in the original. It plainly shows that Louis XIV. was not governed by his ministers, as has been reported; but that he knew how to govern them.
He was fond of praise; and it were to be wished the kings were more fond of it, so that they might endeavor to deserve it. But Louis XIV. did not always swallow it, when it was too strong and excessive. When our academy, which always gave him an account of the subjects it proposed for prizes, showed him the following, “Which of all the virtues of the king deserves the preference?” the king blushed, and would not allow the subject to be treated of. He suffered, it is true, the prologues of Quinault; but it was in the height of his glory, and at a time when the intoxication of the people was some apology for his; Virgil and Horace, from a principle of gratitude, and Ovid, from the most contemptible meanness of spirit, loaded Augustus with praises far more extravagant, and, if we consider the proscriptions, much less deserved.
Had Corneille said to any of the courtiers in Cardinal de Richelieu’s chamber, “Tell the cardinal that I understand poetry better than he,” the minister would never have forgiven him; and yet this is the very thing that Despréaux said openly to his majesty, in a dispute that happened about some verses which the king thought good, and Despréaux condemned. “He is in the right,” said the king; “he understands the subject better than I do.”
The duke de Vendôme had in his retinue a person called Villiers, one of those men of pleasure who make a merit of talking with a cynical freedom. He lodged at Versailles in the duke’s apartment: he was commonly called Villiers Vendôme. This man openly condemned the taste of Louis XIV., in music, in painting, in architecture, in gardening, and in everything else. If the king planted a grove, furnished an apartment, or built a fountain, Villiers found it to be ill-contrived, and expressed his disapprobation in very indiscreet terms. “It is strange,” said the king, “that Villiers should have chosen my house to laugh at everything I do.” Having one day met him in the garden, “Well,” said he to him, showing him at the same time one of his new performances, “has not that the good fortune to please you?” “No.” said Villiers. “And yet,” replied the king, “there are several people who do not dislike it.” “That may be,” returned Villiers; “everyone has his own way of thinking.” The king replied, with a smile, “It is impossible to please all the world.”
One day Louis XIV. playing at tick-tack, had a doubtful throw. A dispute arose, and the courtiers remained in the most profound silence. At that instant the count de Gramont arrived. “Decide this question,” said the king to him. “Sire,” said the count, “your majesty is in the wrong.” “How,” replied the king, “can you accuse me of being in the wrong before you know what the question is?” “Because,” said the count, “had the matter been in the least doubtful, all these gentlemen would have given it for your majesty.”
The duke of Antin distinguished himself in this age by a singular art, not of saying flattering things, but of doing them. The king went to pass a night at Petitbourg, when he found fault with a long alley of trees, which concealed the view of the river. The duke caused them to be cut down in the night. Next morning the king was surprised at not seeing the trees with which he had found fault. “It is,” replied the duke, “because your majesty found fault with them, that you no longer behold them.”
We have elsewhere remarked, that the same man observing that a pretty large wood at the end of the canal of Fontainebleau displeased the king, at the minute when his majesty went to take a walk in it, everything being ready for the purpose, he ordered the trees to be cut down, and in a moment they were levelled with the ground. These are the strokes of an ingenious courtier, and not of a flattering sycophant.
Louis XIV. has been accused of intolerable pride, for suffering the base of his statue in the Place des Victoires to be surrounded with slaves in fetters: but neither this statue, nor that in the Place de Vendôme was erected by him. The statue in the Place des Victoires is a monument of the greatness of soul of the first marshal de la Feuillade, and of his gratitude to his royal master. He expended on this statue five hundred thousand livres, amounting nearly to a million of our present money; and the city added as much more, to render the place regular. It seems equally unjust to impute to Louis XIV. the pride of this statue, and to find nothing but vanity and flattery in the magnanimity of the marshal.
Nothing was talked of but the four slaves; though they rather represent vices subdued than nations conquered, duelling abolished, and heresy destroyed; for so the inscriptions import. They likewise celebrate the junction of the sea, and the Peace of Nimeguen: they talk of nothing but benefits; and none of the slaves has the least resemblance to the people conquered by Louis XIV. Besides, it is an ancient practice among sculptors to place slaves at the feet of the statues of kings. It would be better, indeed, to represent there free and happy subjects. But, to conclude, we see slaves at the feet of the merciful Henry IV. and of Louis XIII. at Paris: we see them at Leghorn under the statue of Ferdinand de Medici, who never, sure, enslaved any nation; and we see them at Berlin under the statue of an elector, who repulsed the Swedes, but made no conquests.
The neighbors of France, and even the French themselves, have, with great injustice, made Louis XIV. answerable for this custom. The inscription, “Viro immortali,” “to the immortal man,” has been accused of idolatry; as if that expression meant any more than the immortality of his glory. The inscription of Viviani, on his house at Florence, “Ædes a Deo datœ,” “the house given by God,” would be still more idolatrous. It is no more, however, than an allusion to the surname, Dieu-donne, and to the verse of Virgil, “Deus nobis hœc otia fecit.”
With regard to the statue in the Place de Vendôme, it was erected by the city. The Latin inscriptions, on the four sides of its base, display a more gross kind of flattery than the statue in the Place des Victoires. We there read that Louis XIV. never took arms but with reluctance. To this adulation he solemnly gave the lie on his deathbed, by those words, which will be remembered longer than these inscriptions, unknown to him, and produced by the meanness of spirit of some men of letters.
The king had set apart the houses of this square for his public library. The place was too large: it had at first three sides, which were those of an immense palace. The walls were already built, when the calamities that happened in 1701 obliged the city to build private houses on the ruins of the palace, which was already begun. Thus the Louvre was never finished. Thus the fountain and the obelisk, which Colbert intended to raise opposite to the gate of Perrault, never appeared but in embryo. Thus the beautiful gate of St. Gervais remained in obscurity; and most of the monuments of Paris fill us only with sorrow.
The nation wished that Louis XIV. had preferred his Louvre and his capital to the palace of Versailles, which the duke de Créqui called a favorite without merit. Posterity admires, with the most grateful remembrance, the great and noble things he did for the public welfare; but our admiration is mixed with censure, when we behold all the magnificence and defects that Louis XIV. has introduced into his house in the country.
From all we have said it appears that Louis XIV. loved grandeur and glory in everything. A prince who should perform as great things as he, and yet be modest and humble, would be the first of kings, and Louis only the second.
If he repented, on his deathbed, of having undertaken war without just reason, it must be owned that he did not judge by events; for, of all his wars, the most just, and the most indispensable—that in 1701—was the only unfortunate one.
He had by his queen, besides the dauphin, two sons and three daughters, who died in their infancy. His amours were more successful. There were only two of his natural children that died in the cradle: eight of them were legitimated, and five of them had children. He had likewise, by a lady who lived much with Madame de Montespan, a daughter, whom he never acknowledged, and whom he married to a gentleman near Versailles, of the name of Le Queue.
Some people suspected, and not without reason, that a certain lady in the abbey of Moret was his daughter. She was very brown, and resembled him in other respects. The king, when he placed her in the convent, gave her a portion of twenty thousand crowns. The opinion she had of her birth gave her an air of pride, of which the superiors of the convent loudly complained. Madame de Maintenon, in a journey to Fontainebleau, went to the convent of Moret; and, willing to inspire this nun with more modest sentiments, endeavored to banish the idea that nourished her pride. “Madam,” said the nun, “the trouble which a lady of your rank takes to come on purpose to tell me that I am not the king’s daughter, fully convinces me that I am.”
This anecdote the nuns of Moret remember to this day.
Such a particularity of circumstances would be irksome to a philosopher; but curiosity, that weakness so incident to mankind, ceases almost to be a weakness, when it is employed about times and personages which attract the attention of posterity.
NOTES ON CHAPTER XXVI.
Philip V. of Spain.—The king of Spain profited by these wholesome advices: he was a virtuous prince.
The author of the “Memoirs of Madame de Maintenon” (tom. v, p. 200) accuses him of having had “a scandalous supper with the princess of Ursino the day after the death of his first wife,” and of having intended to marry that lady, whom he loads with the most bitter invectives. It must be observed that the princess of Ursino, who had been maid of honor to the deceased queen, was then in the sixtieth year of her age. These popular reports, which should be buried in oblivion, become calumnies that deserve the most severe punishment, when people have the impudence to print them, and endeavor to sully the most respectable names without the least proof.
GOVERNMENT, COMMERCE, LAWS, MILITARY DISCIPLINE, UNDER LOUIS XIV.
This justice we owe to persons of a public character who have done good to the age they have lived in: that we should view the point from which they have set out, in order to form a just idea of the changes they have produced in their own country. Posterity is eternally indebted to them for the examples they have given, even though these are surpassed. This just glory is their only recompense. It is certain that the love of such glory animated Louis XIV.; when beginning to govern by himself, he had resolved to reform his kingdom, embellish his court, and perfect the arts.
He not only imposed it as a law upon himself, to labor regularly with each of his ministers, but every man that was but known might obtain a particular audience of him, and all citizens had the liberty of presenting their requests and projects; the petitions were received at first by a master of requests, who marked them on the margin, and they were afterward sent to the officers of the ministers. The projects were examined in council, when they deserved it, and their authors were admitted more than once to discuss the points they contained with the ministers, in presence of their master. Thus we see a correspondence subsisting between the throne and the nation, notwithstanding absolute power.
Louis XIV. accustomed himself to labor; and this was so much the more painful, as it was new to him, and the seduction of pleasures might easily distract him. He wrote the first despatches himself to his ambassadors. The most important letters were often afterward minuted with his own hand, and there was none written in his name which he did not cause to be read to him.
Scarcely had Colbert, after the fall of Fouquet, re-established order in the finances, before the king remitted to his people all the arrears due on the imposts from 1647 till 1656, and especially three millions of taille or excise. The enormous duties were abolished for five hundred thousand crowns a year. Thus Abbé de Choisy seems either to have been very ill informed, or to be guilty of very great injustice, when he says that the public receipt was not diminished; for it is certain that it was lessened by these indulgent remissions, and increased by good order.
The care of the first president, de Bellièvre, assisted by the liberalities of the duchess d’Aiguillon, and several citizens, had established the general hospital. The king augmented it, and caused similar edifices to be erected in all the principal towns of the kingdom.
The great roads, till that time impassable, were not neglected, and by degrees they have become what they are now, under the reign of Louis XV.—the admiration of foreigners. On whatever side you come out of Paris, you travel at present from fifty to sixty leagues, and in some places of the neighborhood, through close alleys bordered with trees. The roads made by the ancient Romans were more durable indeed, but not so spacious nor so beautiful.
Colbert’s genius turned chiefly toward commerce, which was but weakly cultivated, and its grand principles were not yet known. The English, and the Dutch still more, carried on in their own bottoms almost the whole traffic of France. The Dutch, especially, loaded with our merchandise in our ports, and distributed it all over Europe. The king began, from 1662, to exempt his subjects from an impost called the duty of freight, which all the vessels of foreigners paid; and he granted the French the indulgence of transporting their merchandise themselves at less expense. It was then that maritime commerce had its birth. The council for that department, which at present continues, was established, and in it the king presided every fifteenth day.
Dunkirk and Marseilles were declared free ports; and soon afterward this advantage drew the trade of the Levant to Marseilles, and that of the North to Dunkirk.
In 1664 was formed a West India Company, and that of the East Indies was established the same year. Before this time France paid tribute for her luxuries to the Dutch. The partisans of the ancient economy, who were timid, ignorant, and had contracted views, declaimed in vain against a commerce in which a continual exchange was made of money that would not perish for effects which do. They did not reflect that these merchandises of India, which were become necessary, would be more dearly paid for by foreigners. We carry indeed to the East Indies more kinds of goods than we bring from there, and by that means Europe is impoverished. But these come from Peru and Mexico; they are the price of our goods carried to Cadiz, and there remains more of this money in France than the East Indies absorb of it.
The king gave more than six millions of our present currency to the company. He invited rich people to embark in it. The queens, the princes, and all the court furnished two millions of the coin of that time. The superior courts gave twelve hundred thousand livres, the financiers two millions, the body of merchants six hundred and fifty thousand livres. So the whole nation seconded their king.
This company has always subsisted; for though the Dutch had taken Pondicherry in 1694, and the commerce of the Indies has languished ever since, it has recovered in our days new strength; Pondicherry has become a rival to Batavia: and this India company, founded with extreme difficulty by the great Colbert, and re-established in our days by singular revolutions, is now one of the greatest resources of the kingdom. The king also founded a Company of the North, in 1669; he invested funds in it, as he did in that of the Indies. It was then very plain that commerce is no disgrace to any, since the greatest houses interested themselves in these establishments, after the example of the monarch.
The West India Company was no less encouraged than the others. The king furnished the tenth part of all the funds.
He granted thirty francs per ton for exportation, and forty for importation. All those who had vessels built in the ports of the kingdom received five livres for each ton they contained.
Yet one cannot forbear being very much surprised that Abbé de Choisy has censured these establishments in his memoirs, which cannot be read without some mistrust. We are sensible in our days of all that Colbert did for the benefit of the kingdom; but at that time we were entirely ignorant of it; he worked for ungrateful people. They were much more disgusted with him in Paris for the suppression of certain rents on the town house, purchased at a cheap rate since 1656, and for the discredit into which the notes of the king’s privy treasury fell, that were squandered under the preceding minister, than they were sensible of the general good which he did. In this affair were concerned more burgesses than good citizens. Few people had an eye to the public advantage. It is well known what a fascinating power interest has upon the eyes, and how it contracts the mind; I do not mean this only concerning the interest of a single trader, but that of a company, and even a town. The clownish answer of a merchant called Hazon—who upon being consulted by this minister, told him: “You have found the carriage overset on one side, and have overturned it on the other”—was still obsequiously quoted in my young days: and this anecdote is to be met with in Moréri. The philosophic spirit introduced very late into France, reformed the prejudices of the people, so as to make them at length do entire justice to the memory of this great man. He had the same exactness as the duke de Sully; but withal, he had views which were much more extensive. The one was acquainted only with economy, but the other knew how to form grand establishments.
Almost everything was either repaired or created in his time. The reduction of interest on the twentieth denier, on the loans given to the king and particular persons, was a sensible proof of an abundant circulation in 1665. His meaning was, both to enrich and to people France. Marriages in the country were encouraged by an exemption from the taille during the space of five years, for such as would settle themselves at the age of twenty; and every father of a family who had ten children was exempted all his lifetime, because he gave more to the state by the labor of these than he could possibly have done in paying the taille. This regulation ought to have continued forever, unrepealed.
From 1663 till 1672, each year of this ministry was distinguished by the establishment of some manufacture or other. The fine cloths, which before had been brought from England and Holland, were manufactured in Abbeville. The king advanced to the manufacturer, for each working loom, two thousand livres, besides considerable gratuities. In 1669 about forty-four thousand two hundred woollen looms were reckoned to be in the kingdom. The silk manufactures, when brought to perfection, produced a commerce of above fifty millions currency of that time; and the advantage drawn from these was not only very much above the prime cost of the silk necessary in their manufacture, but the cultivation of mulberry trees put the manufacturers into a condition of dispensing with foreign silk for the woof of their stuffs.
From the year 1666 they began to make as fine glasses as at Venice, which city had always before furnished the whole consumption throughout Europe; and they soon made pieces of this kind, which, for largeness and beauty, could never be imitated in any other place. The carpets of Turkey and Persia were surpassed at Savonnières: the tapestry hangings from Flanders were inferior to those of the Gobelins; which vast enclosure was filled at that time with more than eight hundred workmen, and of these three hundred were lodged in it. The best painters had the direction of the work, either from their own designs, or those of the ancient masters of Italy. Besides the tapestry hangings, was made an admirable kind of mosaic, and the art of inlaying was carried to its highest perfection.
Besides this fine manufactory of tapestry in the Gobelins, another was set up at Beauvais. The first manufacturer had six hundred workmen in this town; and the king made him a present of sixty thousand livres.
Sixteen hundred young girls were employed in lace works, and thirty principal workwomen in this way were brought from Venice, and two hundred out of Flanders, who had thirty-six thousand livres given them for their encouragement.
The manufactory of the cloths of Sedan, and that of the tapestry hangings of Abusson, degenerated and fallen into decay, were re-established. The rich stuffs, in which silk is mixed with gold and silver, were woven at Lyons and Tours, with an industry which had not been seen before.
It is a thing well known, that the ministry purchased in England the secret of that ingenious machine by which stockings are made ten times faster than with needles. Tin plates, steel, fine delft ware, and Morocco leather, which was always brought from abroad, were made in France. But the Calvinists, who had the secret of making tin plates and steel, carried it away with them in 1686, and imparted this advantage, with several others, to foreign nations.
The king every year expended about four hundred thousand livres upon the different works of taste which were fabricated in his kingdom, of which he made presents.
Paris was then very different from what it is at present; for it wanted light, security, and cleanliness. It was necessary to make provision for the continual cleansing of the streets, for lighting of them, which is done by means of five thousand lamps burning every night, for paving the city quite through, building two new gates, and repairing the old ones, and causing a continual guard on foot and on horseback to keep watch for the security of the citizens. The king took the whole upon himself, allotting funds for these necessary expenses. In 1667 he created a magistrate solely for taking care of the police. The greater part of the large cities of Europe did not follow these examples till a long time after; and none have equalled them: so that no city is paved like Paris; and Rome itself is not lighted at all.
Everything began to have so great a tendency to perfection that the second lieutenant of police, which Paris had, acquired in that post a reputation which set him in the rank of those who have done honor to this age: such was the capacity of this man for everything. He was afterward in the ministry, and he had been a good general. The place of lieutenant of the police was below his birth and merit, yet it gained him a much greater name than the inconsiderable post in the ministry which he obtained near the end of his days.
Here we should observe that M. d’Argenson was by no means the only person of the ancient nobility who had been in the public magistracy. France is almost the only country of Europe where the ancient nobility have often taken to the long robe. All other nations, merely from the remains of Gothic barbarism, are still ignorant that there is dignity in this profession.
The king still carried on the buildings at the Louvre, St.-Germain, and Versailles, from 1661. Private individuals, after his example, erected in Paris a thousand superb and commodious edifices. Of these the number was so increased that, after the building of the environs of the Palais Royal, and those of St.-Sulpice, there were formed in Paris two new towns, very much superior to the old one. It was at this time that they invented the magnificent convenience of coaches adorned with glasses and hung upon springs; so that a citizen of Paris could convey himself through this large city with more pomp than the first Romans displayed in their triumphal processions to the capitol. This custom was soon after received throughout Europe; and being now very common, it is no longer a piece of luxury.
1 Louis XIV. had a taste for architecture, gardening, and sculpture; and this showed itself in all these to be great and noble. From the time that Comptroller-General Colbert had, in 1664, the direction of the buildings, which is properly the office of the arts, he applied himself to second the schemes of his master. The first necessary work was to finish the Louvre. Francis Mansard, one of the greatest architects whom France had produced, was fixed upon to construct the vast edifices that were projected. He would not undertake this task unless he had liberty given him to rectify whatever should appear to him defective in the execution. This diffidence of himself, which had drawn a train of too much expense after it, was the reason for excluding him. The chevalier Bernini was therefore sent for from Rome, an artist whose name was famous on account of the colonnade which surrounds the portal of St. Peter’s church, the equestrian statue of Constantine, and the Navonne fountain. Equipages were furnished him for his journey. He was conducted to Paris as a man who came to do honor to France. He received, besides five louis d’or a day, for the eight months that he staid there, a present of fifty thousand crowns, with a pension of two thousand more, and one of five hundred for his son. This generosity of Louis XIV. to Bernini was much greater than the munificence of Francis I. to Raphael. Bernini, by way of acknowledgment, made since that time in Rome the equestrain statue of the king, which is to be seen at Versailles. But when he came to Paris with so much parade, as the only person worthy of being employed by Louis XIV., he was very much surprised to see the design of the front of the Louvre on the side of St.-Germain l’Auxerrois, which soon after, when completed, became one of the most august monuments of architecture in the world. Claude Perrault had given this design, which was executed by Louis Levau and Dorbay. He invented the machines with which the stones of fifty-two feet in length were raised, that form the pediment of this majestic edifice. Sometimes there is fetched from afar what is to be met with at hand among ourselves. No palace of Rome has an entrance comparable to that of the Louvre, for which we are indebted to this Perrault,1 whom Boileau has attempted to render ridiculous. Travellers allow that the most celebrated villas of Italy are not superior to the castle of Maisons, which Francis Mansard had built at so little expense. Bernini was magnificently recompensed, but did not deserve it; he only gave designs which were not executed.
The king, when the works at the Louvre were in progress, the completion of which was so much desired; when making a town at Versailles, near this palace, which has cost so many millions; when building Trianon and Marly, and ordering so many other edifices to be embellished, caused the observatory to be erected, which was begun in 1666, after the time that he established the Academy of Sciences. But the most glorious monument for its utility, grandeur, and the difficulties encountered in the execution was the canal of Languedoc, which joins the two seas, and falls into the port of Cette, constructed for the receiving of its waters. These works were begun in 1664, and continued without interruption till 1681. The founding of the Hôtel des Invalides, and the chapel of that structure, the finest in Paris, the establishment of St. Cyr, the last of so great a number of works constructed by this monarch, are alone sufficient to render his name revered. Four thousand soldiers, and a great number of officers, who find in one of these grand asylums comforts in their old age, and relief for their wounds and wants; two hundred and fifty daughters of noblemen, who receive an education worthy of them in the other, are so many voices that celebrate the praises of Louis XIV. The establishment of St. Cyr will be surpassed by that which Louis XV. has just formed for the education of five hundred gentlemen; but far from causing St. Cyr to be forgotten, it makes it to be remembered. This is the art of doing good, brought to perfection.
Louis XIV. was at the same time desirous to perform greater things, and those of more general utility, but more difficult in the execution; and that was to reform the laws. In this he employed the labors of the chancellor Séguier, de Lamoignon, Talon, Bignon, and more especially the chancellor of state, Pussort. He himself sometimes assisted at their assemblies. The year 1667 was at the same time the epoch of his first laws and first conquests. The civil ordinances appeared first; next the code of the waters and forests; then the statutes for all the manufactures; the criminal ordinances; the code of commerce, and that of the marine. All these followed nearly one year after another. There was also a new jurisprudence, established in favor of the negroes of our colonies, a sort of men who had not yet enjoyed the privileges of humanity.
A profound knowledge of the civil law is not to be acquired by a sovereign. But the king was acquainted with the principal laws; he possessed the spirit of them, and knew how, either to maintain or mitigate them properly. He often decided the causes of his subjects, not only in the council of the secretaries of state, but in that called the “Conseil des Parties.” There are two celebrated determinations of his, in which he decided against himself.
In the first, which was given in 1680, the case was in a process between him and certain inhabitants of Paris, who had built upon his ground. He decided that the houses should remain to them, with the land belonging to himself, and which he ceded to them.
The other related to a Persian merchant, called Roupli, whose goods had been seized by the commissaries of his farms, in 1687. His decision was, that all should be restored to him, and the king added a present of three thousand crowns. Roupli carried his admiration and gratitude with him into his own country; and when Mehemet Rizabeg was afterward in Paris we found him acquainted with this fact by common report.
The abolition of duels was one of the greatest services which he did to his country. These combats had been formerly authorized even by the parliament, and by the Church; and though they had been prohibited from the time of Henry IV., yet this fatal custom prevailed more than ever. The famous combat of the La Frettes, four against four, in 1663, was that which determined Louis XIV. not to pardon it any longer. His happy severity corrected by degrees our own nation, and even the neighboring nations, who conformed themselves to our wise customs, after having adopted our bad ones. There are in Europe now a hundred times fewer duels than in the time of Louis XIII.
He was the legislator both of his people, and of his armies. It was strange, that, before his time, uniforms among the troops was a thing not known. It was he, who in the first year of his administration, ordered that each regiment should be distinguished, either by the color of their clothes, or by different marks; a regulation which was adopted soon after by all nations. It was he also who instituted brigadiers, and put the corps of which the household troops of the king are formed upon the footing they are on at present. He formed a company of musketeers out of the guards of Cardinal Mazarin, and fixed at five hundred men, the number of the two companies, to which he gave the clothing they still retain.
Under him were made no constables, and after the death of the duke d’Épernon no colonels-general of the infantry; Marshal Gramont, who was only campmaster of the French guards, under the duke d’Épernon, and took orders from that colonel-general, for the future took them only from the king, and was the first who had the title of colonel of the guards. He himself installed these colonels at the heads of their regiments, by giving them, with his own hands, a gilt gorget and pike, and afterward a spontoon, or a kind of half pike, when the use of the former weapon was abolished. He instituted the grenadiers, at first to the number of four in each company of the king’s regiment, which is of his own creation; afterward he formed a company of grenadiers in each regiment of foot; he gave two companies of them to the French guards, which at present have three. He very much augmented the corps of dragoons, and gave them a colonel-general. We must not forget the establishment of studs for breeding of horses, in 1667, which had been absolutely set aside before that time, and was afterward a great resource for remounting the cavalry.
The use of the bayonet at the end of the gun is an institution of the king’s. Before his time it was used occasionally, and some companies only had this weapon; there was no uniform usage nor exercise with it: all was left to the general’s discretion. The pike was looked upon as the most formidable weapon. The first regiment which had bayonets, and was trained to this exercise, was that of the fusiliers, established in 1671.
The manner in which the artillery is managed at present is entirely owing to him. He founded schools for this purpose at Douai, afterward at Metz and Strasburg; and the regiment of artillery was at length filled with officers, almost all capable of conducting a siege. All the magazines of the kingdom were stored, and every year furnished with eight hundred thousand weight of powder. He formed a regiment of bombardiers, and one of hussars, a kind of horsemen which, before his time, were known only among our enemies.
In 1688 he established thirty regiments of militia, furnished and equipped by the communities of the kingdom. These corps of militia exercised themselves in war without neglecting the cultivation of the lands.
Companies of cadets were entertained in most parts of the frontiers; there they learned mathematics, designing, and all the exercises, and did also the duty of soldiers. This institution lasted ten years. At length they were tired of these youths, as it was too difficult a matter to discipline them; but the corps of engineers, which the king formed, and to which he gave the regulations still followed by them, is an establishment that will last forever. Under him the art of fortification was carried to perfection by Marshal de Vauban1 and his pupils, who surpased Count de Pagan. He constructed or repaired a hundred and fifty fortified places.
In order to maintain the military discipline, he created inspectors-general, afterward directors, who gave an account of the state of the troops; and from their reports it was seen whether or not the commissaries of war had done their duty.
He instituted the order of St. Louis, an honorable recompense, often courted more than fortune. The Hôtel des Invalides crowned the cares which he took for meriting to be well served.
It was owing to such cares as these, that, from 1672, he had a hundred and eighty thousand regular troops; and that by augmenting his forces in proportion as the number and power of his enemies increased, he had at length four hundred and fifty thousand men in arms, including the troops of the marine.
Before his time, no such strong armies had been seen. His enemies hardly opposed to him any of equal force; though there was a necessity for a close union among them. He showed what France alone could do; and he had always either great success or great resources.
He was the first, who, in time of peace, gave a perfect idea and complete lesson of war. In 1698 he assembled at Compiègne seventy thousand men, where he performed all the operations of a campaign; and this was in order to instruct his three grandsons. But this military academy became a school of luxury.
The attention which he showed in forming numerous and well-disciplined armies, even before he was engaged in any war, he likewise exerted in acquiring the empire of the sea. First, the few vessels which Cardinal Mazarin had suffered to rot in the harbors were repaired; some others were bought in Holland and Sweden; and after the third year of his government he sent his maritime forces to make an attempt on the coast of Africa. The duke de Beaufort cleared the sea of pirates, in 1665, and two years after France had in its ports sixty ships of war.
This was only a beginning. But, while new regulations and new efforts were being made, he already felt all his force. He was unwilling to consent that his ships should strike their flag to that of England. The council of King Charles II. in vain insisted upon this right, which force, industry, and time had given to the English. Louis XIV. wrote to Count d’Estrades, his ambassador: “The king of England and his chancellor may see what my forces are; but they do not see my heart. I regard my honor more than all other things.”
He said no more than what he was resolved to maintain; and, in fact, the usurpation of the English gave way to natural right, and the firmness of Louis XIV. Everything was equal between these two nations at sea. But, while he would have an equality kept up with England, he maintained his superiority over Spain. He obliged the Spanish admirals to strike to his flag in virtue of the solemn precedence agreed upon in 1662.
Pains, however, were used on all sides for the establishment of a marine capable of justifying those high sentiments. The town and port of Rochefort were built at the mouth of the Charente. Sailors were enrolled and ranked by classes, who were to serve at one time in merchant ships, and at another in the royal navy. And soon there were found to be sixty thousand of these actually registered.
Councils of construction were established in the ports, for giving vessels the most commodious form. Five marine arsenals were built: at Brest, Rochefort, Toulon, Dunkirk, and Havre-de-Grâce. In 1672 there were sixty ships of the line and forty frigates. In 1681, a hundred and eighty ships of war, including the tenders, and thirty galleys, were in the harbor of Toulon, either equipped or ready to be so. Eleven thousand regular troops served on board the ships; and the galleys had three thousand. There were a hundred and sixty-six thousand men registered by classes, for all the different services of the marine. The following years there were reckoned to be in the service a thousand gentlemen, doing the duty of soldiers on board the ships, and learning in the ports whatever might qualify them for the art of navigation, and the working of a ship; these were the marine guards; they were on sea what the cadets were on land; and were instituted in 1672, but in small numbers. This corps has been the school which has produced the best officers of the service of the navy.
There had not been yet marshals of France in the corps of the marine; and this shows how this essential part of the forces of France had been neglected. John d’Estrées was the first marshal, in 1681. It appears that one of the great objects of Louis XIV. was to inspire all ranks with that emulation without which everything languishes.
In all the naval fights in which the French fleets were engaged, the advantage was always on their side, till the battle of La Hogue, in 1692, when Count de Tourville, following the orders of the court, attacked with forty-four sail a fleet of ninety English and Dutch ships: there was no standing against numbers; fourteen capital ships, of the first rate, were lost; which, being run aground, were burned, lest they should fall into the hands of the enemy. Notwithstanding this defeat, the maritime forces supported themselves; but they declined in the following war. They did not begin to be well re-established till 1751, during a happy peace, the only proper time for establishing a good marine, for the accomplishment of which there is neither leisure nor power while a war lasts.
These naval forces were of use to protect commerce. The colonies of Martinique, Santo Domingo, and Canada, before in a languishing condition, now flourished: not indeed to such a height of prosperity as we see them now arrived at, but with an advantage which till then had not been hoped for; for, from 1635 till 1665, these colonies had been a positive burden to the state.
In 1664 the king sent a colony to Cayenne, and soon after another to Madagascar. He tried all methods for repairing the loss and misfortune which France had suffered for a long time by neglecting the sea, while her neighbors had erected empires for themselves at the extremities of the earth.
From this general view, we see what changes Louis XIV. introduced into the state; changes indeed advantageous, as they still exist. His ministers had an emulation among themselves, who should second him best. The whole detail, the whole execution is undoubtedly owing to them, but the general disposition to him. It is certain that the magistrates would not have reformed the laws, the finances would not have been put again in order, discipline introduced into the armies, general police in the kingdom; that there would have been no fleets; the arts would not have been encouraged; and all this in concert, and at the same time, with perseverance, and under different ministers, if there had not been found a master who had in general all these grand views, with a will determined to accomplish them.
He did not separate his own glory from the advantage of France, nor look upon the kingdom with the same eye as a lord does upon his lands, from which he draws all he can, that he may live luxuriously. Every king who loves glory, loves the public good. He had no longer Colbert and Louvois when, in 1698, he ordered, with a view to the instruction of the duke of Burgundy, that each intendant should give a circumstantial description of his respective province; by which means an exact account might be obtained of the kingdom, and the true number of its inhabitants ascertained. The work was useful, though all the intendants had not the capacity and attention of M. Lamoignon de Bâville. Had the views of the king been so fully answered, with regard to each province, as they had been by this magistrate in the enumeration of the people of Languedoc, this collection of memoirs would have been one of the finest monuments of the age. Some of them are well done; but a plan was wanting by which all the intendants were to be subjected to the same order. It had been a thing much to be desired, that each had given in columns a state of the number of inhabitants in every province, also that of the nobles, citizens, laborers, artificers, works of art, the beasts of every sort, the good, middling, and bad lands, the whole clergy, regular and secular, their revenues, with those of the towns and companies.
All these objects are confounded in the greatest part of the memoirs which have been given; the matters in them are not canvassed thoroughly, and are done with little exactness. You are often obliged to seek with pains for the necessary lights which a minister should find ready under his hand, and catch up by a single glance, that he may easily discover the several forces, wants, and resources contained therein. The project was excellent, and a uniform execution of it would have been of the greatest utility.
This then in general is what Louis XIV. did and attempted, that he might render his own nation more flourishing. It seems to me that one cannot behold all these labors and all these efforts without some acknowledgment, and being animated with the love of the public good, which inspired them. Let us but represent to ourselves what the state of the kingdom was in the days of The Fronde, and what it is at present. Louis XIV. did more good to his own nation than twenty of his predecessors put together, and yet it falls infinitely short of what might have been done. The war, which was ended by the Peace of Ryswick, began the ruin of that commerce which Colbert had established, and the succeeding war completed it.
Had he employed for the embellishing of Paris and the completion of the Louvre, those immense sums expended on the aqueducts, and the works of Maintenon for conveying water to Versailles, works indeed interrupted and useless; had he laid out in Paris the fifth part of what that cost, in order to force nature at Versailles, Paris would be throughout its whole extent as beautiful as it is on the side of the Tuileries and the Pont-royal, and would have been the most magnificent city in the world.
It is a great deal to have reformed the laws; but chicanery could not be crushed by justice. The government once thought of making jurisprudence uniform: it is so already in criminal affairs, in those of commerce, and the forms of process; it might be so likewise in the laws which regulate the fortunes of the subject. It is a great inconvenience, that the same tribunal has more than a hundred different customs to give decisions upon. The duties arising from lands, either equivocal, or burdensome to society, still continue, as the remains of the feudal government, which itself subsists no longer. These are the remains of a Gothic building, now no more.
It is not pretended these different orders of the state should be subjected to the same law, for one is very sensible that the usages of the noblesse, the clergy, the magistrates, and those who cultivate the earth should be different. But it is undoubtedly to be wished for, that each order should have its uniform law throughout the kingdom, that what is just and true in Champagne may not be considered false in Normandy. Uniformity in all sorts of administration is a virtue; but the difficulties of this great work have deterred people from attempting it.
Louis XIV. might have more easily dispensed with the dangerous resource of the farmers of the taxes, to which he was compelled by the constant anticipation of the receipt of his revenues, as may be seen in the chapter of the finances.
Had he not believed that he was sufficiently able, merely by his own authority, to oblige a million of men to change their religion, France had not lost so many subjects. This country, however, notwithstanding its various shocks and losses, is at present the most flourishing on the face of the earth, because all the good which Louis XIV. did is still in existence, and the evil, which it was difficult for him to avoid in turbulent times, has been repaired. In fine, posterity, who pass judgment on kings, and whose judgment they should always have before their eyes, will admit on weighing the virtues and foibles of this monarch, that though he had been too much praised in his lifetime, he deserved to be so forever; and that he was worthy of the statue erected to him at Montpellier, with the inscription “To Louis the Great, after his death.”
All the changes which we have just now seen pointed out in the government, and in all the orders of the state, must necessarily have produced a very considerable one in the manners of the people. The spirit of faction, fury, and rebellion, which possessed the nation from the time of Francis II., became a spirit of emulation for serving the prince. The lords, who possessed great estates, being no longer cantoned upon them; the governors of provinces having no more posts of honor to bestow, each individual studied to deserve no other favors than those of the sovereign; and the state became one regular whole, every line of which terminated in the centre.
This was what delivered the court from factions and conspiracies, which had always troubled the state during a course of so many years. Under the administration of Louis XIV. there was but one plot, in 1674, which was contrived by la Traumont, a gentleman of Normandy, ruined by debauchery and debt; he was joined by one of the house of Rohan, who, by like conduct, had been reduced to the same indigent circumstances. In this plot were concerned only the chevalier de Preaux, nephew of la Traumont, who, seduced by his uncle, also seduced his mistress, Madame de Villiers. Their aim and hopes neither were, nor could be, to form a party in the kingdom. They only intended to sell and deliver up Quillebeuf to the Dutch, and introduce the enemy into Normandy. This was a base treason ill planned rather than a conspiracy. The punishment of all the criminals was the only event which this mad and fruitless affair produced, of which there is hardly at present any remembrance left.
If there were any seditions in the provinces, these were only feeble tumults of the people, which were easily repressed. Even the Huguenots were always quiet, till their churches were demolished. At length the king succeeded so far as to make, out of a nation till then turbulent, a peaceable people, who were dangerous only to the enemy, after having been so to themselves for above a hundred years. Their manners were softened, without hurting their courage.
In the houses which the nobility built or bought in Paris, their ladies lived with dignity, and formed schools of politeness, which drew by degrees the young people from a life spent at the taverns, which had been the prevailing mode for a long time before, and only served to inspire those who frequented them with an insolent debauchery. Manners depend on such trifles, that the custom of riding on horseback in Paris kept up a disposition for quarrels, which ceased as soon as this usage was abolished. Decorum, for which we are principally obliged to the fair sex, who assembled company at their houses, rendered conversation more agreeable, and, by reading, came in time to be more solid. Treasons and great crimes, which do not disgrace mankind in times of faction and confusion, were hardly known any longer. The villainies of Brinvilliers and Voisin were only transitory storms, under a sky otherwise serene: and it would be equally unreasonable to condemn a whole nation on account of the glaring crimes of some individuals, as to canonize it on account of the reformation of La Trappe.
All the different states of life were, in former times, easily known by the faults which characterized them. Those of a military turn, and the young people who designed themselves for the profession of arms, had a hasty vivacity; those belonging to the courts of justice, a stern, forbidding gravity; to which the custom of going always in a long robe, even to court, did not a little contribute. And it was the same case with regard to the universities, and to physicians. Merchants still wore little robes whenever they met together, and when they went to wait on the ministers; also the most considerable tradesmen were at that time persons of rustic manners. But the houses, the theatres, and the public walks, in which they began to meet together, in order to enjoy the pleasure of a social life, gradually rendered the exterior appearance of all these people nearly alike. One may see at this day, even in tradesmen’s shops, that politeness has gained ground upon all ranks. The provinces have in time also felt the effects of these changes.
At length people no longer place luxury in anything but taste and convenience. The crowd of pages and servants in livery has disappeared, to make way for more freedom in the houses of the great; vain pomp and outward pride have been left to those nations, among whom the people still know no more than to show themselves in public, and who are ignorant of the art of living.
The extreme easiness introduced into the intercourse of the world, affability, simplicity, and the cultivation of the mind, have rendered Paris a city which, for the conveniences of life enjoyed there, probably very much surpasses Rome and Athens in the height of their splendor.
That great number of helps always ready, always open for the whole circle of the sciences, all the arts, particular tastes and wants, so many solid advantages uniting with such a number of agreeable things, joined to that openness peculiar to the inhabitants of Paris; all these together induce vast numbers of strangers to travel, or take up their residence in this social city. If some natives quit it, they are either such as being called elsewhere on account of their talents, are an honorable testimony to their country, or else the refuse of the nation, who try to make their advantage of the consideration it has acquired.
Complaints are made, that no longer is to be seen at court so much grandeur and dignity as formerly; the truth is that there are no petty tyrants, as in the days of The Fronde, under the reign of Louis XIII., and in the preceding ages. But true greatness is now to be met with in those crowds of nobility, who were formerly debased for so long a time by serving subjects grown too powerful. There are seen gentlemen, and also citizens, who would have thought themselves honored in former days to be the domestics of these lords, become now their equals, and very often their superiors in the military service: and the more this service prevails over titles, the more flourishing is any state.
The age of Louis XIV. has been compared to that of Augustus. Not that the power and personal events in both can be compared: for Rome and Augustus were ten times more considerable in the world than Louis XIV. and Paris. But we must call to mind that Athens was equal to the Roman Empire in all things which do not derive their value from force and power. We must further consider, that if there is nothing at present in the world like ancient Rome and Augustus, yet all Europe together is much superior to the whole Roman Empire. In the time of Augustus there was but one nation, and at this day there are several who are well regulated, warlike, and enlightened, who are possessed of arts to which the Greeks and Romans were utter strangers; and among these nations there are none which has been more illustrious for about an age past than that formed in some measure by Louis XIV.
FINANCE UNDER LOUIS XIV.
If we compare the administration of Colbert with all the preceding ones, posterity will be fond of this man, whose body the frantic populace after his death would have torn to pieces. The French certainly owe to him their industry and their commerce; and consequently that wealth, the sources of which are sometimes diminished in war, but are always opened again with an abundant flow in peace. Yet in 1702 people had still the ingratitude to throw the blame upon Colbert for the languor which began to be perceivable in the sinews of the state. A financier of Normandy published about that time an account of the revenues of France, in two small volumes, in which he pretended that everything was in a declining state from 1660. But so far from this being the case, it was quite the reverse. France had never been so flourishing as since the death of Cardinal Mazarin, down to the war of 1689; and even in that war, the body of the state, though beginning to be out of order, supported itself by means of the vigor which Colbert had diffused through all its members. The author of this detail pretended that, from 1660, the lands of the kingdom had diminished in value fifteen hundred millions. But nothing was more false, nor less probable. These captious arguments, however, persuaded such as would be persuaded to believe this ridiculous paradox.
It was easier in France than in any other country to decry the ministry of the finances in the minds of the people. This ministry is the most odious, because the imposts are always so; besides, there prevailed in general as much prejudice and ignorance in the finances, as there did in philosophy.
It was so long before people received better information, that even in our days we find in 1718, the parliament in a body telling the duke of Orleans that the intrinsic value of the silver mark is twenty-five livres; as if there was any other real intrinsic value than that of the weight and the fineness: and the duke of Orleans, with all his penetration in other respects, had not enough of it in this to remove that mistake of the parliament.
It is true, Colbert had not done all that he could, and still less than he would have done. Men were not then sufficiently enlightened; and in a great kingdom there are always great abuses. The arbitrary taille, the multiplicity of duties, the different customs of the provinces, which make one part of the inhabitants of France strangers and even enemies to the other; the little resemblance there is between the measures of one town and those of another; with twenty other maladies of the body politic, could not be remedied.
Colbert, in order to furnish at once the expense of the war, of buildings, and pleasures, was obliged to re-establish, in 1672, what at first he intended to have abolished forever; namely, imposts on places, rents, new offices, and the augmentation of salaries: in short, that which supports the state for some time but involves it in debt for many years.
He was carried beyond his intended measures; for by all the instructions remaining of his, we see he was persuaded that the riches of a country consist only in the number of its inhabitants, the cultivation of the lands, the industry of the people, and commerce. We see, that the king, possessing very few domains, and being only the administrator of the goods of his subjects, cannot indeed be rich but by imposts easy to bear and equally assessed.
He feared so much to give up the state to the farmers of the king’s revenue, that some time after the dissolution of the chamber of justice, which he had caused to be erected against them, he got an arret of council passed, which made it death for those who should advance money upon the new imposts. His meaning by this menacing arret, which was never printed, was to cure the avidity of undertakers. But soon after he was obliged to make use of them, without even revoking the arret: for the king was pressing, and it was necessary to find prompt means to satisfy him.
This invention, brought from Italy into France by Catherine de Medici, had so much corrupted the government, by the facility with which it procured supplies, that after having been suppressed in the glorious days of Henry IV., it appeared again throughout the reign of Louis XIII. and greatly infected the latter times of Louis XIV.
Six years after the death of Colbert, in 1689, France was precipitated into a war, which she was obliged to maintain against all Europe, without having any funds in reserve. The minister, Lepelletier, believed that it would be sufficient to diminish luxury. An ordinance was accordingly made, that all the movables of solid plate, which were to be seen at that time in considerable quantities in the houses of the great, and were a proof of opulence, should be carried to the mint. The king set the example: he parted with all those silver tables, branched chandeliers, grand canopy-couches of massive silver, and all the other movables, which were masterpieces, chased by the hand of Ballin, the greatest artist in his way, and all done from designs of Lebrun. They had cost ten millions, but produced only three. The wrought plate belonging to private persons yielded three millions more. The resource was inconsiderable.
In 1691 and 1692 the finances of the state appeared sensibly out of order. Those who attributed the diminution of the public revenue to the profusion of Louis XIV. on his buildings, the arts, and his pleasures were not aware that, on the contrary, the expenses which encourage industry, enrich a state. It is war that necessarily impoverishes the public treasury, unless the spoils of the vanquished can fill it again. Since the time of the ancient Romans, I know of no nation that has enriched itself by victories. Italy, in the sixteenth century, was rich only by commerce. Holland would not have existed long had she confined herself to the taking of the plate-fleet of the Spaniards, and were not the East Indies the support of her power. England has always impoverished herself by war, even in destroying the French fleets: and commerce alone has maintained her. The Algerines, who have hardly any more than what they gain by piracy, are most miserably poor.
Among the nations of Europe, war, at the end of some years, renders the conqueror nearly as unhappy as the conquered. It is a gulf in which all the streams of abundance are absorbed. Ready money, that principle of all good and of all evil, raised with such difficulty in the provinces, terminates in the coffers of a hundred stock-jobbers and farmers of the revenue, who advance the sums wanting by the state, and who buy, by virtue of these advances, the right of pillaging the nation in the name of the sovereign. The people, in consequence of this, looking on the government as their enemy, conceal their wealth; and the want of circulation brings a languor on the kingdom.
No sudden remedy can supply a fixed and permanent establishment of long standing, which provides at a distance against any unforeseen wants. The capitation1 was established in 1695. It was suppressed at the Peace of Ryswick, and re-established later. Comptroller-General de Pontchartrain sold patents of nobility for two thousand crowns, in 1696; five hundred persons bought them. But the resource was transitory, and the shame permanent. The nobles, both ancient and modern, were obliged to register their coats of arms, and to pay for the permission of sealing their letters with them. The farmers bargained for this tax, and advanced the money; so that the ministry had hardly ever recourse to any but petty resources, in a country which could have furnished much greater.
They dared not impose the tenth penny till 1710. But this tenth penny, raised after so many other burdensome taxes, appeared so hard, that they dared not exact it with rigor. The government did not draw from it twenty-five millions a year, at forty francs to the mark.
Colbert had made few attempts to change the nominal value of money. But it is better not to change it at all. Silver and gold, those standards of exchange, should be invariable. He raised the nominal value of the silver mark, which was twenty-six francs in his time, only to twenty-seven and twenty-eight; and after his death, in the last years of Louis XIV., this denomination was extended as far as forty imaginary livres: a fatal resource, by which the king was relieved for a moment, in order to be ruined afterward; for instead of a silver mark, he had only given him little more than the half of it. He who owed twenty-six livres in 1668, gave a mark; and he who owed forty livres, gave little more than this same mark in 1710. The diminutions which followed disconcerted the little commerce that remained, as much as raising it had done.
A real resource might have been found in paper credit; but this should be established in a time of prosperity, that it may maintain itself in times that are otherwise.
The minister, Chamillard, began in 1706 to pay in bank notes, notes of subsistence, and free quarters; but as this paper money was not received into the king’s coffers, it was destroyed almost as soon as it appeared. The government was reduced to the necessity of continuing to negotiate heavy loans, and use by anticipation four years of the revenues of the crown.
We are told, in the history written by La Hode, and put under the name of de la Martinière, that it cost seventy-two per cent. for exchange in the wars of Italy, which is an absurdity. The matter of fact is this, that M. Chamillard, in order to pay the armies, made use of the credit of the chevalier Bernard. This minister believed, through an old prejudice, that money must not go out of the kingdom, as if such money were given for nothing, and as if it were possible that one nation indebted to another, and which does not discharge itself by mercantile effects, should not pay in ready money. This minister gave the banker eight per cent. of the profits, upon condition that foreigners were paid without making the money go out of France. Besides this, he paid the exchange, which amounted to five or six per cent. loss; yet the banker, notwithstanding his promise, was obliged to pay his accounts with the foreigners in money; and this produced a considerable loss.
Comptroller-General Desmarets, nephew of the celebrated Colbert, having succeeded Chamillard in 1708, could not cure an evil which everything rendered incurable.
Nature conspired with fortune to distress the state. The severe winter of 1709 obliged the king to remit to the people nine millions of taxes at the time when he had not wherewithal to pay his soldiers. The scarcity of provisions was so excessive that it cost forty-five millions for provisions for the army; and the king’s ordinary revenue produced scarcely forty-nine. The expenses of 1709 amounted to two hundred and twenty-one millions. There was then a necessity for ruining the state, that the enemy might not make themselves masters of it. The disorder grew to such a head, and was so little repaired, that for a long time after the peace, at the beginning of 1715, the king was obliged to cause thirty-two millions of notes to be negotiated, in order to have eight millions in specie. In short, at his death, he left a debt of two thousand six hundred millions, reckoning twenty-eight livres to the mark, the rate to which the coin was then reduced; and this makes about four thousand five hundred millions of our current money in 1750.
It is astonishing, but true, that this immense debt would not have been a burden impossible to bear, had there been at that time a flourishing commerce in France, a paper credit established, and substantial companies, which would have answered this credit, as is the case in Sweden, England, Venice, and Holland: for when a powerful state is indebted only within itself, credit and circulation are sufficient to make payments. But a great deal was wanting for France to have at that time a sufficient number of springs to operate so vast and complicated a machine, the weight of which crushed it.
Louis XIV. in his reign expended eighteen thousand millions; which amounts, one year with another, to three hundred and thirty millions of the present currency, by compensating interchangeably with each other, the nominal raisings and lowerings of the coin.
Under the administration of the great Colbert, the ordinary revenues of the crown rose only to a hundred and seventeen millions, at twenty-seven livres, and afterward twenty-eight livres to the silver mark. Thus the whole surplus was always furnished by extraordinary methods. Colbert was obliged, for example, to raise four hundred millions in six years, in the war of 1672. The king had but very few ancient domains of the crown left. These were declared unalienable by all the parliaments of the kingdom; and yet almost all of them were alienated. The king’s revenue consisted of the wealth of his subjects, and was a perpetual circulation of debts and payments. His majesty owed the people more nominal millions a year, under the name of annuities of the town house, than any king ever drew from the domains of the crown.
In order to form an idea of this prodigious increase of taxes, debts, riches, circulation, and at the same time of the embarrassments and trouble which have been experienced in France and other countries, it is to be considered that, at the death of Francis I., the state owed about thirty millions of livres to the town house, and that at present it owes over forty-five millions a year.
Those who have compared the revenues of Louis XIV. with those of Louis XV. have found, by only keeping to the fixed and current revenue, that Louis XIV. was much richer in 1683, at the time of Colbert’s death, with a hundred and seventeen millions of revenue, than his successor was in 1730, with nearly two hundred millions: and this will appear, by considering only the fixed and ordinary revenues of the crown. For a hundred and seventeen nominal millions, with the mark at twenty-eight livres, is a much greater sum than two hundred millions at forty-nine livres, which was the amount of the king’s revenue in 1730; and moreover, we must reckon the charges increased by the loans of the crown. But the revenues of the king, that is, of the state, have since been accumulated; and the knowledge of the finances has been brought to such a state of perfection, that in the ruinous war of 1741, there was no stagnation of credit. We have begun to form funds of mortgages, as among the English: it was necessary to adopt a part of their system of finances, as we have done of their philosophy: and if in a state purely monarchial, these circulating notes could be introduced, which at least double the wealth of England, the administration of France would acquire its last degree of perfection.1
In 1683, there were about five hundred nominal millions of silver coin in the kingdom; and about twelve hundred of the present currency. But the denomination in our days is almost double what it was in Colbert’s time. It therefore appears, that France is only about one-sixth part richer in circulating specie, since the death of that minister. It is much more so in materials of silver and gold worked and used for service and luxury. In 1690 it had not four hundred millions of our perfect coin; and at this day we have as much as there is circulating specie. Nothing shows more plainly how commerce, the sources of which Colbert opened, has been increased, when a free course has been given to its channels, that were shut close by the wars. Industry has been brought to perfection, notwithstanding the emigration of so many artists, which the revoking of the Edict of Nantes has dispersed; and this industry still increases daily. The nation is capable of as great things, and even still greater, than it was under Louis XIV., because genius and commerce always gain new strength wherever they are encouraged.
To see the affluence of individuals, the number of agreeable houses built in Paris and in the provinces, the multitude of equipages, the conveniences and refinements of luxury, you would think that our opulence is twenty times greater than it was formerly. All this is the fruit of ingenious labor rather than of riches. At this day it costs but little more for an agreeable lodging than it did for a bad one in the reign of Henry IV. A beautiful sort of glass of our own manufacture adorns our houses, at much less expense than the little glasses which were brought from Venice; our fine and showy stuffs are cheaper than those which we brought from foreign countries, and which were not of equal value with them. In effect, it is not silver and gold that procure a commodious life, but genius. A people possessed only of these metals would be miserable; whereas, on the other hand, a people without these metals, but who can happily employ all the productions of the earth, would be the truly wealthy people. France has this advantage, with a great deal more specie than is necessary for circulation.
Industry being brought to perfection in the towns, grew up and increased in the country. There will always be complaints raised about the condition of the tillers of the soil; you hear them in all countries of the world; and such murmurings are generally produced from indolent people of fortune, who condemn the government more than they bemoan the people. It is true that in almost every country, if such as pass their days in rural labors had leisure to murmur, they would rise up against the exactions which take from them a part of their substance. They would detest the necessity of paying such taxes as they had not laid upon themselves, and of bearing the burden of the state without participating in the advantages enjoyed by other citizens. It does not belong to the province of history to examine how the people may be taxed without being oppressed, and to mark the precise point so difficult to be fixed between the execution of the laws and the abuse of them; between impost and rapine. But history should show that it is impossible for a town to be flourishing, unless the country round it enjoys plenty; for certainly the produce of its fields supports its inhabitants. We hear on particular days, in all the towns of France, the reproaches of those who by their profession are allowed to declaim in public against all the different branches of consumption to which the name of luxury is given. It is evident that the nourishment for this luxury is furnished only by the industrious labor of the tillers of the ground: a labor which is always dearly paid for.
More vineyards have been planted, and better cultivated. New wines have been made, that were not known before, like those of Champagne, the makers of which have been well acquainted with the methods of giving them the color, flavor, and strength of the Burgundy wines, and which they vend among foreigners to a great advantage. This increase of wines has produced that of brandies. The cultivation of gardens of pulse and fruit has received a prodigious improvement; and the commerce in provisions with the colonies of America has from this been augmented. The loud complaints which have been made in all times about the misery of the country have now ceased to have any foundation. Besides, in these vague complaints there is no distinction made between the planters, the farmers, and the mechanics. These last live only by the labor of their hands; and the case is alike in all the countries of the world, where the bulk of the people, or the greater number, should subsist by that means: but there is scarcely a kingdom in the universe in which the planter and the farmer are more at ease than in France; and England alone may dispute this advantage with it. The proportional land-tax, instead of that substituted at discretion, has still contributed for about thirty years past to render more stable the fortunes of such husbandmen as have ploughs, vineyards, and gardens. The craftsman, or workman, must be restricted to necessaries for labor: such is the nature of man. For though the greater part of mankind may be poor, there is no necessity for their being miserable.
The middling sort have enriched themselves by industry. The ministers and the courtiers are less wealthy, because money having been raised nominally about half its value, their appointments and pensions have continued the same; and the price of goods has risen more than half. This is what has happened in all the countries of Europe. The several dues and fees have everywhere remained on the ancient footing. An elector of the empire, who receives the investiture of his states, pays no more than what his predecessors paid in the time of the emperor Charles IV., in the fourteenth century: and in this ceremony there is only a crown due to the emperor’s secretary.
What is much stranger is, that though all things have been raised, the nominal value of coin, the quantity of materials in gold and silver, and the price of merchant goods, yet the pay of a soldier has continued at the same rate as it was two hundred years ago. A foot soldier has five nominal sous, the same as he had in the time of Henry IV. None among the great number of ignorant men who sell their lives at so cheap a rate know that since the over-rating of the specie, and the dearness of merchandise, he receives about two-thirds less than the soldiers of Henry IV. did. If he knew it, and demanded a pay two-thirds greater, it must have been granted him. Hence it must happen that as the powers of Europe would keep on foot two-thirds fewer troops, their forces would be balanced in the same proportion; the cultivation of the ground and the manufactures would profit by this measure.
We must further observe, that the profits of commerce, being augmented, and the appointments for all the great offices diminished in their real value, there is found to be less wealth among the great than formerly, and more among the middling rank of people: and this circumstance has put men more upon a level. In former days there was no resource for the little but to serve the great. At present, industry has opened a thousand ways, which were not known a hundred years ago. In short, in whatever manner the finances of the state may be administered, France possesses in the labor of twenty millions of inhabitants an inestimable treasure.
PROGRESS OF THE SCIENCES.
This happy age, which has seen a revolution produced in the human mind, did not seem destined to it. To begin with philosophy, there was no appearance in the time of Louis XIV. that it would have emerged out of the chaos into which it was plunged. The Inquisition of Italy, Spain, and Portugal had linked the errors of philosophy to the tenets of religion; the civil wars in France, and the disputes of Calvinism were not more adapted to cultivate human reason than was the fanaticism of Cromwell’s time in England. Though a Canon Thorn renewed the ancient planetary system of the Chaldæans, which had been exploded for so long a time, this truth was condemned at Rome; and the congregation of the holy office, composed of seven cardinals, having declared not only heretical but absurd the motion of the earth, without which there is no true astronomy—the great Galileo having asked pardon at the age of seventy for being in the right—there was no appearance that the truth would be received in the world.
Chancellor Bacon had shown, but at a distance, the track which might be followed. Galileo had made some discoveries on the descent of bodies; Torricelli began to ascertain the gravity of the air which surrounds us; and some experiments had been made at Magdeburg. Notwithstanding these essays, all the schools continued in absurdity, and the world in ignorance. Then appeared Descartes; he did the contrary of what should have been done; instead of studying nature, he wanted to guess at her. He was the greatest geometrician of his age; but geometry leaves the mind as she finds it. That of Descartes was too much addicted to invention. The prince of mathematicians made scarcely any more than romances of philosophy. A man who scorned experiments, never cited Galileo, and was for building without materials, could erect no more than an imaginary edifice.
That which was romantic in it succeeded; and the few truths, mixed with these new chimeras, were at first contested; but at last these few truths broke out by the help of the method which he himself introduced. For before his time there was no thread for this labyrinth; and at least he gave one, of which a use was made after he had bewildered himself. It was a great deal to destroy the chimeras of Peripateticism, though by means of other chimeras. These two phantoms combated each other. They fell successively; and reason raised itself at length upon their ruins. There was at Florence an academy for experiments, under the name of del Cimento, established by Cardinal Leopold de Medici, about 1655. They were already aware in this country of the arts, that it was not possible to comprehend anything about the grand fabric of nature, but by examining her minutely. This academy, after the days of Galileo, and from the time of Torricelli, performed signal services.
Some philosophers in England, under the gloomy administration of Cromwell, met together for the discovery of truth, at a time when it was oppressed by the severity of enthusiasm. Charles II., being called home to the throne of his ancestors, by the repentance and inconstancy of his own nation, gave letters patent to this infant and rising academy; but this was all that the government gave. The royal society, or rather the free society of London, labored to promote useful knowledge. It was from this illustrious body that in our days proceeded the discoveries on light, the principle of gravitation, the motion of the fixed stars, and a hundred other discoveries, which in that respect might give occasion to the calling of this age the age of the English as well as that of Louis XIV.
In 1666, Colbert, jealous of this new kind of glory, was desirous that the French should partake of it; and, at the entreaty of some learned men, prevailed on Louis XIV. to condescend to the establishment of the Academy of Sciences. It was free till 1699, like that of England and the French Academy. Colbert drew from Italy, Dominico de Cassini,1 and Huygens from Holland, by means of large pensions. They discovered the satellites and the ring of Saturn. The world is indebted to Huygens for pendulum clocks. By degrees, knowledge was acquired in all parts of true physics, by rejecting systems. The public was surprised to see a chemistry, in which researches were made neither for the grand secret nor for the art of prolonging life beyond the bounds of nature; an astronomy which did not predict the events of the world; and a medicine independent of the phases of the moon. Putrefaction was no longer the parent of animals and plants. There were no more prodigies, from the time that nature came to be better known; for she was studied in all her works.
Geography received astonishing improvements. No sooner had Louis XIV. built the observatory, than he caused a degree of the meridian to be measured in 1669, by Dominico de Cassini and Picard; which was continued toward the north in 1683, by de Lahire, and at last Cassini prolonged it in 1700, as far as the extremity of Roussillon. This is the finest monument of astronomy, and is sufficient to eternize this age.
In 1672, natural philosophers were sent to Cayenne, in order to make useful observations. This voyage gave rise to the discovery of a new law of nature, which the great Newton has demonstrated, and has paved the way for those more famous voyages which have since given a lustre to the reign of Louis XV.
In 1700, de Tournefort was sent to the Levant, to collect there the plants necessary to enrich the royal garden, which was formerly neglected, but was at that time restored, and is now worthy of the curiosity of Europe. The royal library, already well stocked, was enriched under Louis XIV. with upward of thirty thousand volumes; and this example is so well followed in our days, that it contains at this time more than a hundred and eighty thousand. He caused the law school, which had been shut for a hundred years past, to be opened. He established in all the universities of France professors of the French law. One would imagine that there should be no other here, and that the good Roman laws incorporated with those of the country, should form but one body of the laws of the nation.
Under him literary journals were established. It is well known that the “Journal des Savans,” which began in 1665, is the first of all the works of this kind with which Europe is at this day filled, and into which too many abuses have crept, as commonly happens in things of the greatest utility.
The Academy of the Belles-Lettres, composed at first, in 1663, of some members of the French Academy, for transmitting to posterity, by medals, the actions of Louis XIV., became useful to the public, from the time that it was no longer solely employed about the monarch, and that they applied themselves to researches into antiquity, and a judicious criticism upon opinions and facts. It produced nearly the same effect in history as the Academy of Sciences did in natural philosophy: it dispelled errors.
The spirit of discernment and criticism, which increased by degrees, insensibly destroyed superstition. It is to this dawn of reason that we owe the declaration of the king in 1672, which forbids the tribunals to admit simple accusations of sorcery. This was a matter which dared not be attempted under Henry IV. and Louis XIII. And if, since 1672, there have been accusations of enchantment, the judges have not condemned the persons accused, excepting where profanation of religion, or the use of poison was proved against them.1
It was formerly very common to try sorcerers by plunging them in water, being first bound with cords; and if they floated on the surface, they were convicted. Several judges in the provinces had ordered such trials to be made; and these methods still continued for a long time among the people. Every shepherd was a sorcerer; and amulets and studded rings were used in the towns. The effects of the hazel wand, with which it was believed that springs, treasures, and thieves could be found out, were looked upon as certain; and have still a great deal of credit given them in more than one province in Germany. There was hardly anybody but who had his nativity cast; and nothing was talked of but magical secrets. All ranks were infected with the delusion. Learned men and magistrates had written seriously on these matters. A set of authors was distinguished by the name of “Dæmonographi.” There were rules for discerning true magicians, and true demoniacs from the false. In fine, even to our time, there was hardly anything adopted from antiquity but errors of every kind. Superstitious notions were so rooted among men, that people were frightened by a comet in 1680; and scarcely anyone dared to combat this popular fear. James Bernoulli, one of the greatest mathematicians in Europe, in his answer to those who maintained the ominous nature of comets, says, that its head cannot be a sign of the divine wrath, because that head is eternal; but that the tail may very well be so. However, neither the head nor tail are eternal. It was then necessary that Bayle should write against vulgar prejudices, a book, famous at that time, which the progress since made by reason has now rendered useless.
One would not believe that sovereigns had obligations to philosophers. It is, however, true, that this philosophic spirit, which has gained ground among all ranks except the lower class of people, has very much contributed to give a due weight to the rights of princes. Disputes which would have formerly produced excommunications, interdicts, and schisms have caused none of these things. It has been said that the people would be happy had they philosophers for their kings; it is equally true, that kings are the more happy, when many of their subjects are philosophers.
It must be allowed that the reasonable spirit, which begins to preside over education in the large towns, has not been able to cure the frenzy of the fanatics in the Cévennes, nor prevent the inferior people of Paris showing their folly at the tomb of St. Médard,1 nor quiet the disputes, as violent as they are frivolous, which arise between men who ought to be wiser. But before this age, such disputes had caused troubles in Europe: the miracles of St. Médard were believed by the most considerable citizens; and fanaticism, which had been confined within the mountains of the Cévennes, diffused itself into the towns.
Science and literature seemed carried to perfection in this age; and so many writers have extended the powers of the human understanding that those who at other times would have been thought prodigies passed undistinguished in the crowd. Their glory is lessened on account of their number; but the glory of the age is greatly exalted.
THE POLITE ARTS IN EUROPE AT THE TIME OF LOUIS XIV.
I have sufficiently hinted, in the course of this history, that the public disasters it contains, which succeed one another almost without intermission, are at length erased from the registers of time. The springs and minute circumstances of politics, sink into oblivion; while wise laws and institutions, the monuments produced by the arts and sciences, continue forever.
Of the immense crowd of strangers that now travel to Rome, not as pilgrims, but as persons of taste, hardly one takes pains to inquire anything concerning Gregory VII. or Boniface VIII. They admire the beautiful churches built by a Bramantes and a Michelangelo, the paintings of a Raphael, and the sculptures of a Bernini; if they have genius, they read the works of Ariosto and Tasso, and reverence the ashes of Galileo. In England the exploits of Cromwell are scarcely mentioned, and the disputes of the white and red roses are almost forgotten; but Newton is studied for whole years together: no one is surprised to see in his epitaph that “he was the glory of mankind;” but it would be a matter of great wonder in that country to see the remains of any statesman honored with such a title.
I should be glad, in this place, to do justice to all the great men, who, like him, were the ornaments of their country in the last century. I have called this the Age of Louis XIV. not only because this monarch patronized the arts much more than all the other kings, his contemporaries, put together, but also because he saw all the generations of the princes of Europe thrice renewed. I have fixed this epoch some years before the time of Louis XIV. and have carried it down some years after his decease, as this was, in fact, the space of time in which the human mind made the greatest progress.
The English have made greater advances toward perfection, in almost every species of learning, from 1660 till the present time, than in all the preceding ages. I shall not here repeat what I have elsewhere said, of Milton. It is true, he is accused by several critics of a whimsical extravagance in his description, such as that of the fools’ paradise; the walls of alabaster with which the garden of Eden was surrounded; the devils, who transformed themselves from giants to pygmies, to take up less room in the council chamber of hell, built all of pure gold; the firing of cannon in heaven; the hills that the combatants flung at one another’s heads; angels on horseback, and angels whose bodies, after being cut asunder, unite again. He is complained of for his prolixity and incessant repetitions. They say he equals neither Ovid nor Hesiod in that long description of the formation of the earth, animals, and man. His dissertations on astronomy are censured, as being too dry and uninteresting; his invention is thought rather extravagant than wonderful, and more disgusting than striking; for instance, the long causeway over chaos; sin and death enamored of each other, and having children by their incestuous commerce; “Death, who lifts up his nose, to snuff, through the immensity of chaos, the change which has befallen the earth, as a raven smells dead carcasses.” The same Death who smells out sin, who strikes with his petrifying club on the elements of Earth and Water, which, together with Heat and Humidity, become four valiant generals of an army, leading in battle-array the light-armed embryos of atoms.1 In short, writers have exhausted themselves in criticisms on this celebrated work; but there can be no end to the praises it merits. Milton will ever continue the boast and admiration of the English nation, will always be compared to Homer, whose faults are equally great, and always preferred to Dante, whose imagination is even more extravagant.
Among the great number of pleasing poets that adorned the reign of Charles II., such as Waller, the earls of Dorset and Roscommon, the duke of Buckingham, etc., the celebrated Dryden holds a distinguished place; he is equally famous in all the different kinds of poetry. His writings abound with a number of minute particulars, at once natural and lively, animated, bold, nervous, and pathetic; a merit in which he has been equalled by no other poet of his nation, nor exceeded by anyone among the ancients. If Pope, who came after him, had not, in the latter part of his life written his “Essay on Man,” he would have fallen far short of Dryden.
No nation has ever treated morality, in verse, with so much energy and depth, as the English. In this, I think, seems to lie the greatest merit of their poets.
There is another kind of varied literature, which requires a still more cultivated and universal genius; this Addison possessed in an eminent degree. He has not only immortalized his name by his “Cato,” which is the only English tragedy written with elegance and well-supported dignity, but his other writings, both moral and critical, breathe the very soul of good taste; here sense is everywhere embellished with the flowers of imagination; and his manner of writing may serve as a model to all nations. There are several little pieces of Dean Swift, unmatched by anything of the kind in antiquity. He is Rabelais improved.
The English are not acquainted with funeral orations, it not being the custom with them to praise their kings and queens in their churches, but pulpit eloquence, which, before the reign of Charles II., was very rude, became formed on a sudden. Bishop Burnet acknowledges that this was owing to their imitation of the French; perhaps they have even surpassed their masters; they are not so stiff, affected, and declamatory in their sermons as the French are.
It is also remarkable that these islanders, who are separated from the rest of the world, and who remained so long untaught, should have acquired at least as much knowledge of antiquity as is to be met with in Rome, though the centre of all nations. Masham has unveiled the dark accounts of ancient Egypt; no Persian had ever a more perfect knowledge of the religion of Zoroaster than the celebrated Hyde. The history of Mahomet, and the times preceding him, which was unknown to the Turks, has been fully illustrated by Hales, who made so many useful voyages to Arabia.
There is no country in the world where the Christian religion has been so strongly attacked and so learnedly defended as in England. From the time of Henry VIII. to that of Cromwell, they carried on their disputes like the ancient gladiators, who were wont to come into the arena to fight with scimitars in their hands and bandages about their eyes. Some slight differences in doctrine and worship were productive of the most bloody wars; whereas, from the Restoration to the present time, though scarcely a year has passed without some attack on Christianity, the controversy has not excited the least disturbance, learning being the only weapon now employed on either side, instead of fire and sword, as formerly.
But, it is in philosophy that the English have particularly had the mastery over all other nations. Ingenious and speculative notions were out of the question. The fables of the Greeks had been long laid aside, and those of the moderns were to appear no more. Chancellor Bacon first led the way, by asserting that we should search into nature in a new manner, and have recourse to experiments. Boyle employed his whole life in making them. This is no place for discussions on natural philosophy; let it suffice to say that, after three thousand years of vain inquiries, Newton was the first who discovered and demonstrated the great law of nature, by which every part of matter tends toward the centre, and all the planets are retained in their proper course. He was the first who truly beheld light; before him we knew not what it was.
His principles of the mathematics, which contain a system of natural philosophy, entirely new and true, are founded on the discovery of what is called the Calculation of Infinites, the last effect of geometry, and which was executed by him at the age of twenty-four. This occasioned that great philosopher, the learned Halley, to say: “It will never be permitted any mortal to approach nearer to the Deity.”
Numberless good geometricians and natural philosophers were at once improved by his discoveries, and encouraged to pursue the course he had pointed out to them. Bradley at length went so far as to discover the parallax of the fixed stars, at twelve millions of millions of miles distant from our little globe.
Halley, though no more than a private astronomer, had the command of one of the king’s ships in 1698. In this ship he determined the position of the stars of the Antarctic, or South Pole, and marked the different variations of the compass in all the parts of the known world. The famous voyage of the Argonauts was, in comparison with his, no more than the passing from one side of a river to another in a boat; and yet this voyage of Halley’s has scarcely been spoken of in Europe.
This indifference of ours for great things, when become too familiar, and the admiration paid by the ancient Greeks to the most trivial ones, is another proof of the prodigious superiority of our age over the ancient times. Boileau, in France, and Sir William Temple, in England, obstinately deny any such superiority; they seem resolved to depreciate their own age, in order to exalt themselves above it. This dispute between the ancients and moderns is at length decided, at least as to philosophy. There is not one of the ancient philosophers whose works are now made use of for the instruction of youth in any of the enlightened nations.
Locke alone might serve as a great instance of the advantage that the present time has over the finest ages of Greece. From Plato down to him there is one great chasm, no one during all that interval having explained the operations of the soul; and a person who should be acquainted with all that Plato has written, and acquainted with that only, would have very little knowledge, and even that erroneous.
The Greek was indeed an eloquent writer; his apology for Socrates is a great piece of service done to the learned of all nations. It is but just to hold in veneration him who made oppressed virtue so venerable, and its persecutors so detestable. It was for a long time thought that he, who was so fine a moralist, could not be a bad natural philosopher; he was held almost for a father of the Church, on account of his “Ternarion,” which no one understood; but what would be thought of a philosopher in our days who would tell us that matter is the author; and that the world is a figure of twelve pentagons; that fire is a pyramid, and is linked to the earth by numbers? How would a person be received, who should go about to prove the immortality and metempsychosis of the soul, by saying that sleep comes from watching, watching from sleep, life from death, and death from life? Yet such are the arguments that have been the admiration of so many ages, and ideas still more extravagant have since continued to be made use of, in the education of mankind.
Locke is the only one who has explained human understanding, in a book where there is nothing but truths; and what renders the work perfect is that these truths are all clear.
If we would, once for all, see in what this last age has the superiority over the former ones, we have only to cast our eyes upon Germany and the North. Dantzic has produced a Hevelius, who is the first astronomer that was ever well acquainted with the planet of the moon, no man before him having ever so carefully examined the heavens; among the many great men whom this age has produced, no one is a more striking example how justly it may be called the age of Louis XIV. Hevelius lost an immense library by fire. The French monarch recompensed the astronomer with a present that far overpaid his loss.
In Holstein, Mercator was the forerunner of Newton in geometry. The Bernouillis of Switzerland were disciples worthy this great man, and Leibnitz was for some time considered his rival.
The famous Leibnitz was born at Leipsic; he ended his days in Hanover, like a true philosopher, believing in a God, like Newton, without consulting the various opinions of mankind. He was perhaps a man of the most universal learning in Europe; he was a historian indefatigable in his inquiries; a profound civilian, who enlightened the study of law by philosophy, foreign as it may appear to that kind of study; so thorough a metaphysician, as to attempt reconciling divinity and the metaphysics; a tolerable Latin poet; and lastly, so good a mathematician, as to dispute with the great Newton the invention of the Calculation of Infinities, and to make it for some time doubted which of them had the justest claim to the honor of that discovery.
This was then the golden age of geometry. Mathematicians sent frequent challenges to one another, that is to say, problems to solve, much in the same manner as it is said the ancient kings of Egypt and Asia sent enigmas to be answered by one another. The problems proposed by these geometricians were of a much more difficult nature than the Egyptian enigmas, and yet none of them remained unanswered, either in Germany, England, Italy, or France. There never was a more universal correspondence kept between philosophers than at this period, and Leibnitz contributed not a little to encourage it. A republic of letters was insensibly established in Europe, in the midst of the most obstinate war, and the number of different religions; the arts and sciences, all of them thus received mutual assistance from each other, and the academies helped to form this republic. Italy and Russia were united by the bonds of science, and the natives of England, Germany, and France went to study at Leyden. The famous physician, Boerhaave, was consulted at the same time by the pope and the czar of Muscovy. His principal pupils have in like manner drawn strangers after them, and have in some measure become the physicians of nations. The truly learned of every denomination have strengthened the bonds of this grand society of geniuses, which is universally diffused, and everywhere independent. This correspondence is still carried on, and proves one of the greatest comforts against the evils which ambition and politics scatter through the world.
Italy has preserved her ancient glory in this age, though she has produced no new Tassos, nor Raphaels. It is sufficient that she has once produced them. A Cabrera, a Zappi, and a Filicaia have shown that delicacy is always the portion of this nation. The “Merope” of Maffei, and the dramatic works of Metastasio, are the beautiful monuments of the age.
The study of true natural philosophy, as established by Galileo, still keeps its ground in spite of the ancient philosophy, which has but too many bigoted admirers. The Cassinis, the Vivianis, the Mandis, the Bianchinis, the Zanottis, and many others have spread over Italy the same light that beamed in other countries, and, though its principal rays came from England, yet the Italian schools have been able to gaze on it in all its splendor.
Every kind of literature has been cultivated in this ancient seat of the arts as much as elsewhere, except in those subjects where a liberty of thinking allows a greater scope to the genius in other nations. This age in particular has attained a better knowledge of antiquity than the preceding. Italy furnishes more monuments than all Europe together, and in proportion as these have been brought to light, science has become more extensive.
We are indebted for this progress to some wise men and geniuses, scattered in small numbers over some parts of Europe, almost all of them for a long time subjected to persecutions, and lost in oblivion; they have enlightened and comforted the world during the wars that spread desolation through it. There are lists to be met with elsewhere, of all those who have been the ornaments of Germany, England, and Italy. It would be very improper, in a stranger, to pretend to rate the merits of so many illustrious men; let it suffice then to have shown, that in the last age mankind acquired throughout Europe greater light than in all the ages that preceded it.
THE CHILDREN OF LOUIS XIV.—THE SOVEREIGN PRINCES CONTEMPORARY WITH HIM—HIS GENERALS AND MINISTERS.
THE CHILDREN OF LOUIS XIV.
Louis XIV. married Maria Theresa of Austria, born in 1638, only daughter of Philip IV. by his first queen, Elizabeth of France, and sister of Charles II. and Margaret Theresa, whom Philip IV. had by his second wife, Marie Anne of Austria. The nuptials were celebrated July 9, 1660, and Maria Theresa died in 1683. He had by her:
Louis, the dauphin, called Monseigneur, born Nov. 1, 1661, who died at Meudon, April 14, 1711. Nothing was more common for some time before the death of this prince than the following proverb, which was applied to him: “The son of a king, the father of a king, and never king.” The event seemed to countenance the credulity of those who place faith in predictions; but this saying was only a repetition of that which went about concerning Philip de Valois, and was moreover founded chiefly on Louis XIV.’s own state of health, he being much more robust than his son. This prince had by Mary Anne Christina Victoria of Bavaria, who died April 20, 1690:
1. Louis, duke of Burgundy, who was born Aug. 6, 1682, and died Feb. 18, 1712. He had issue by his duchess, Maria Adelaide of Savoy, who died Feb. 12, 1712: N., duke of Brittany, who died in 1705; Louis, duke of Brittany, who died in 1712; and Louis XV., who was born Feb. 15, 1710.
2. Philip, duke of Anjou, king of Spain, born Dec. 19, 1683, died July 9, 1746.
3. Charles, duke de Berry, born Aug. 31, 1686, died May 4, 1714.
Louis XIV. had two other sons and three daughters, who all died young.
His Natural and Legitimated Children.
Louis XIV. had by the duchess de la Vallière, who turned Carmelite nun June 2, 1674, took the habit June 4, 1675, and died June 6, 1710, aged sixty-five:
Louis de Bourbon, count of Vermandois, born Oct. 2, 1667, died in 1683.
Mary Anne, called Mademoiselle de Blois, born in 1666, married to Armand, prince of Conti, and died in 1739.
Other Natural and Legitimated Children.
Louis Augustus, of Bourbon, duke de Maine, born March 31, 1670, died in 1736.
Louis Cæsar, count of Vexin, abbot of St. Denis and St.-Germain-des-Prés, born in 1672, died in 1683.
Louis Alexander de Bourbon, count of Toulouse, born June 6, 1678, died in 1737.
Louise Frances of Bourbon, called Mademoiselle de Nantes, born in 1673, married to Louis III., duke of Bourbon-Condé, and died in 1743.
Louise Marie of Bourbon, called Mademoiselle de Tours, died in 1681.
Frances Mary, of Bourbon, called Mademoiselle de Blois, born in 1677, married to Philip II., duke de Orleans, regent of France, died in 1749.
Two other sons both died young.
CELEBRATED ARTISTS AND MUSICIANS.
[The foregoing review of the progress made in the arts and sciences would be incomplete without a glance at the leading artists in painting and music. Each nation has its peculiar theories of art, which fact tends to the formation of schools, modified by conditions of national life, scenery, climate, and largely by patriotic enthusiasms. In no art are national characteristics more marked than in that of music.]
French music, especially the vocal, is disliked by all other nations. It cannot be otherwise, because the French prosody or versification differs from that of every other country of Europe. We make the pauses always upon the last syllable, whereas all others make it upon the penult, or antepenult, as the Italians. Our language is the only one that has words terminating in e mute, and those e’s that are not pronounced in ordinary discourse, yet are uniformerly so in music, as gloire, victoire, etc. Hence it comes, that most of our airs and recitative are insupportable to those who have not been accustomed to them. The climate denies us that flexibility of voice which it gives the Italians, and it is not custom among us, as at Rome and other Italian courts, to make eunuchs of men, in order to render their voices finer than those of women. All these things, joined to the slowness of our singing, which, by the bye, forms a strange contrast with our native vivacity, will always make the French music disagreeable to any but Frenchmen.
After all, foreigners who have resided some considerable time in France, acknowledge that our musicians have performed wonders in adapting their airs to our words, and also that the music is very expressive; but only so to ears that have been some time accustomed to it, and besides, the execution must be very good.
Our instrumental music is not altogether free from the monotony and slowness of the vocal; but many of our symphonies and tunes have been relished by foreigners. They are admitted into many of the Italian operas, and scarcely any others are in use at the court of a king who has one of the best operas in Europe, and who, among his other extraordinary talents, has a fine taste for music, which he cultivates with great assiduity.
Jean Baptiste Lulli, who was born at Florence in 1633, and came to France at the age of fourteen, when he could perform on no instrument but the violin, was the parent of true French music. He knew how to suit his art to the genius of the language, which was the only sure way to succeed: but at that time the Italian music had not begun to deviate from that gravity and noble simplicity which we still admire in Lulli’s recitative. Nothing resembles these recitatives more than the “Motet” of Lugi, sung in Italy with so much success in the seventeenth century, which begins thus:
It must be observed, that in this pure recitative music, which is the mélopée of the ancients, the beauty of the singing is principally owing to the natural melody of the words; no words but such as are musical can well have a place in recitative. But of this they were not sufficiently sensible in the days of Quinault and Lulli. The poets were jealous of these gentlemen as poets, but not as musicians. Boileau thus addresses Quinault:
The tender passions, which Quinault expressed so well, were much rather a striking picture of the human heart, than a loose morality; his diction animated the music still more than Lulli’s art did the words. These two, with the help of actors, have, of some scenes of Atys, Armida, and Roland, made an entertainment such as no people, ancient or modern, can match. Detached airs and ariettes did not at all come up to the perfections of these grand scenes. They very much resembled our Christmas carols, or the Venetian barcaroles; and yet they were contented with them at that time. The more artless the music then was, the fonder they were of it.
After Lulli, all our musicians, such as Colasse, Campra, Destouches, and others, copied after him, till at last one appeared, who far excels them in sublime harmony, and has vastly altered and improved the art of music.
With regard to sacred music, though we have had some celebrated composers in France, yet their pieces have not been executed anywhere but in the king’s chapel.
The case is not the same with regard to painting as with music. The latter may be such as to please none but the natives, because the genius of the language is incompatible with any other; but painters should represent nature, which is the same everywhere, and seen with the same eyes.
The only true test of a painter’s merit is the judgment of foreigners. It is not enough that he has a party, and is praised by scribblers; his works must be in request, and bear a high price. What sometimes hampers the genius of painters one would be apt to imagine would elevate and enlarge it, I mean the particular taste or manner of the school, or of those who preside in it. Academies are, without doubt, extremely useful to form pupils, especially when the directors aim at the sublime in painting; but if they are men of grovelling taste, if their manner is dry and minute, if their figures are ungraceful, their pieces painted like fans; their pupils are the dupes of imagination, or aiming at the applause of a bad master. There is a sort of fatality attending academies. None of the works styled academic, of any kind, have been works of genius. Suppose an artist extremely solicitous lest he should not hit the manner of his fellow academicians, his productions will infallibly be stiff and disgusting. But if a man is free from these prejudices, and aims only at copying nature, it is ten to one that he succeeds. Almost all the eminent painters either flourished before the establishment of academies, or got the better of the prejudices contracted there.
Corneille, Racine, Despréaux, and Lemoyne took a route quite different from their brethren, and in consequence had most of them for their enemies.
Nicholas Poussin was born at Andelys in Normandy, in 1599. Nature gave him a genius for painting, which he improved at Rome. He is called the painter of men of sense; with equal justice may he be denominated that of men of taste. His only defect is his heightening of the dismal and solemn in the coloring of the Roman school. He was the greatest painter in Europe in his time. He was invited from Rome to Paris; but was forced to give way to envy and cabal, and to withdraw, as many other ingenious men have done. He went back to Rome, where he lived poor, but contented, his philosophy enabling him to despise the frowns of fortune. He died in 1665.
Le Sueur, born at Paris in 1617, had no other master than Vouet, and yet became a celebrated painter. He carried the art to a high degree of perfection, when he was taken off the stage of time at the age of thirty-eight years, in 1655.
Bourdon and Valentin were eminent men. Three of the best pictures that adorn the church of St. Peter at Rome, are by Poussin, Bourdon, and Valentin.
Charles Lebrun, born at Paris in 1619, had scarcely begun to display his talent, when Superintendent Fouquet, one of the most generous, and at the same time most unhappy men that ever lived, gave him a pension of twenty-four thousand livres present money. His picture of the family of Darius at Versailles is little short, in point of coloring, of that of Paul Veronese, which faces it; and in design, composition, dignity, expression, and observance of costume, surpasses it. His battles of Alexander, engraved, are still more in request than those of Constantine by Raphael and Julio Romano. He died in 1690.
Peter Mignard, born at Troyes, in Champagne, in 1610, rivalled Lebrun for some time; but he is now considered as much below him. He died in 1695.
Claude Lorrain.—His father, when he would have made a pastry-cook of him, did not foresee that he would one day be reckoned one of the greatest landscape painters that ever Europe had produced. He died at Rome in 1682.
Case.—We have some pieces of his that begin to be highly valued. We do not do justice to ingenious men in France as soon as we should. Their indifferent performances often prevent us from seeing the beauties of their masterpieces. On the contrary, the Italians extol what is great and excellent, without taking notice of what is indifferent. Every nation seeks to promote its own glory and renown, except the French. They value nothing but what is foreign.
Joseph Parrocel, born in 1648, was a good painter, but inferior to his son. He died in 1704.
John Jouvenet, born at Rouen in 1644, was Lebrun’s pupil, and a good painter, but not to be compared to his master. He has painted almost everything yellow; for by some extraordinary conformation of his organs, they appeared to him of that color. He died in 1717.
Jean Baptiste Santerre.—There are some admirable pictures of his, the color of which is just and delicate. His picture of Adam and Eve is one of the finest in Europe: that of St. Theresa, in the chapel of Versailles, is a very noble piece, but rather luscious for an altarpiece.
Lafosse distinguished himself much in the same way.
Bon Boullongne was an excellent painter, of which the high price and great demand for his pieces are an evidence.
Louis Boullongne.—His works, though not without merit, yet are not so much admired as his brother’s.
Raoux.—His pieces are not all of equal merit. In some of them he is nothing short of Rembrandt.
Rigaud.—Though he excelled chiefly in portraits, yet his piece of Cardinal Bouillon opening the jubilee, is not at all inferior to any of Rubens.
Detroy.—He painted in Rigaud’s manner. There are some good historical pieces by his son.
Watteau.—He excelled as much in the graceful as Teniers did in the grotesque. Some of his pupils have done him honor.
Lemoine.—His “Hercules’ Apotheosis,” at Versailles, is perhaps superior to anything I have yet mentioned. It was intended as a compliment to Cardinal Hercules de Fleury, who, by the way, had nothing in common with the fabulous Hercules. It would have been more apropos to have represented the apotheosis of Henry IV. in the falcon of a French king. Lemoine, being envied by his brethren, and thinking himself ill-reputed by the cardinal, died of grief and despair.
Besides these there have been some other painters, who excelled in still life, or in painting animals, as Desportes and Oudry; others in miniature, and others in portraits. At present we have some that distinguish themselves in the grand and sublime, and posterity, in all appearance, will have them, too.
Sculptors, Architects, and Engravers.
Under Louis XIV. sculpture was carried to perfection, in which it still continues under Louis XV.
James Sarazin, born in 1590, executed some masterpieces at Rome for Pope Clement VIII., and at Paris he was equally successful. He died in 1660.
Peter Puget, born in 1622, was an architect, sculptor, and painter. He is celebrated chiefly for his “Andromeda,” and “Milo of Crotona.” He died in 1694.
Italy is indebted to Legros and Theodon for many of its embellishments.
Francis Girardon, born in 1630.—Antiquity can boast of nothing superior to his “Bath of Hercules,” and his “Tomb of Cardinal Richelieu.” He died in 1715.
Coysevox and Coustou were eminent in their way; yet we have three or four sculptors at present that excel them.
Chauveau, Nanteuil, Vermeulen, Audran, Hedlinger, Leclerc, les Drevet, Poilly, Picart, Duchange, though they have been outdone, yet were ingenious men, and their engravings supply the want of original pictures, etc., all over Europe.
There were also some goldsmiths, such as Ballin and Germain, who, on account of the beauty of their designs, and elegance of execution, deserve to be ranked among the most celebrated artists.
It is more difficult for one born with a genius for architecture to make his talent appear, than for any other artist. Unless he is set to work by princes he has no opportunity to display his taste and skill in any work of grandeur and magnificence. Thus have the talents of many an architect been entirely useless to him.
Francis Mansard was one of the best architects of Europe. The château, or palace of Maisons, near St.-Germain’s, is a masterpiece, because he was at liberty to give full scope to his genius.
Jules Hardouin Mansard, his nephew, was superintendent of the buildings under Louis XV. and made an immense fortune. The beautiful chapel of the Invalides is a design of his. As to the palace of Versailles, he could not display his talents to advantag in it, by reason of the situation.
Foreigners say that the city of Paris has only two fountains in good taste; the old one of John Gougeon, and the new of Bouchardon; and even these are badly situated. Neither has it any magnificent theatre besides that of the Louvre, which is not used. The places for the public diversions and representations have neither proportion, taste, nor ornament; and their situation is as bad as their contrivance, notwithstanding the example that has been set us by some cities in the provinces, but which we have not yet thought fit to follow. France, however, can boast of magnificent buildings of another sort, and of more importance, such as stately hospitals, storehouses, stone bridges, quays, dikes for checking the inundations of rivers, canals, sluices, ports, and especially the fortifications of the frontier towns, in which beauty is united with solidity.
The magnificent structures erected from the designs of Perrault, Levau, and Dorbay are too well known to require mention.
The art of gardening was in a manner invented and perfected by Lenôtre, and de la Quintinie; by the former with respect of beauty and ornament, and by the latter with regard to utility.
Engraving of precious stones, coining of medals, and casting of types for printing have kept pace with the other arts in point of improvement.
Clocks and watches, the makers of which may be considered as a sort of practical naturalists, have likewise been carried to a very high degree of perfection.
The watering of stuffs, and the gold with which they are embellished and enriched, displays such rare ingenuity and taste that what is worn only from vanity and luxury deserves to be preserved as a monument of industry.
The making of porcelain was set on foot at St. Cloud before it was attempted anywhere else in Europe.
In fine, the last age has taught the present how to unite, and transmit as a sacred deposit to posterity, the whole assemblage of the arts and sciences, each of them carried to the utmost perfection possible; and to do so is actually the object and aim of numbers of learned and ingenious men at this day. But such is the brevity of human life, that the execution of part of the immense and immortal design must be left to posterity.
[1 ] This anecdote is attested by the memoirs of La Porte, page 255, and we there see that the king had taken an aversion to the cardinal; that that minister, though his relative, and intrusted with the charge of his education, had taken no care to improve him, and had often left him in want of common necessaries. He adds much heavier accusations, which reflect dishonor on the cardinal’s memory; but they do not appear to be proved, and no accusation should be admitted without it.
[1 ] Cardinal Richelieu had already given balls, but they were without taste, as were all entertainments before his time. The French, who have now carried the art of dancing to perfection, had only a few Spanish dances in the minority of Louis XIV., as the sarabande, the courante, etc.
[1 ] A famous surgeon, son-in-law to the physician above mentioned, is witness of what I have said, and Mr. Bernaville, successor of St. Mars, has often confirmed it.
[1 ] The abbot St.-Pierre, in his “Annales Politiques,” page 104 of his manuscript, says: “These things plainly show the number of lazy lubbers, as also their taste for laziness, which sufficiently serves to maintain and cherish other kinds of dronish fellows; and yet this is the condition of the Italian nation at present, where these arts are carried to a high degree of perfection; for they are beggars, lazy, heavy, vain poltroons, occupied about impertinences,” etc.
These rude reflections, written in language equally rude, are void of justice. The time in which the Italians succeeded best in these arts was under the Medici, while Venice was in its most warlike and opulent state; then it was that Italy produced great warriors and illustrious artists of all kinds. And it was also in the flourishing years of Louis XIV. that the arts have been carried to the greatest perfection. The abbot St.-Pierre has mistaken a great number of things, and has given grounds for regretting that reason has not always seconded his good intentions.
[1 ] Claude Perrault was a member of the Royal Academy at Paris, and bred a physician, though he did not practise that art. He made some noble designs in architecture, and was allowed to be a man of genius by all the world but Boileau, who, from private pique, has satirized both him and his brother Charles; a want of candor in Boileau which greatly detracts from the merit of his genius.
[1 ] Anthony le Prêtre, chevalier, count de Vauban, is so well known as the greatest engineer of his time—if Coehorn does not contest that pre-eminence—that we need not dwell upon the particulars of his character.
[1 ] In Vol. iv, p. 136, of Maintenon’s “Memoirs,” we find that the capitation “brought in beyond the hopes of the farmers.” But there has never been any farm of the capitation. It is said that “the lackeys of Paris went to the town house to beg that they might be put into the capitation.” This ridiculous story destroys itself, for masters always paid for their domestics.
[1 ] The abbot of St.-Pierre, in his “Journal Politique,” in the article “System,” says that in England and Holland there are no more notes than specie; but it is certain that the former greatly exceed the latter and do not subsist but by credit.
[1 ] John Dominico Cassini was one of the most able astronomers that Italy ever produced. He flourished in the seventeenth century, and in his youth was appointed professor of astronomy at Bologna, but he was invited to France by Colbert to be a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences, and there he spent the remaining part of his life, which was happily extended to extreme old age. He explained the nature and revolutions of comets; he discovered that the planet Mars revolved upon its own axis in twenty-four hours and forty minutes; he discerned the spots on the body of Venus; he demonstrated that Saturn had five satellites, instead of one, which was all that Huygens had discerned; and he measured a degree of the meridian in the south of France.
[1 ] In 1609 six hundred sorcerers were condemned in the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Bordeaux, and most of them burned. Nicholas Remi, in his “Demonolatri,” gives an account of nine hundred arrets, passed in fifteen years against sorcerers in Lorraine only. The famous curate, Louis Guaffredi, burned at Aix in 1611, had publicly owned that he was a sorcerer, and the judges believed him.
It is shameful that Father Lebrun, in his treatise of “Superstitious Practices,” still admits of the decision of doubtful matters by casting lots. He even goes so far as to say, page 524, that the Parliament of Paris acknowledged it; but he is mistaken; the parliament indeed owned that there were profanations and enchantments, but no supernatural effects produced by the devil. The book of Don Calmet, “Sur les Vampires et sur les Apparitions,” has been looked upon as the work of a disordered brain, but it plainly shows how much the mind of man is addicted to superstition.
[1 ] Miracles were said to be performed at the tomb of Abbé Paris, in 1730. As this abbé was a professed Jansenist, the Jesuits would not allow him to be a saint, and found means to interest both the clergy and the government against his pretensions to this title. The archbishop of Paris published a mandamus, condemning the new miracles of this beatified Jansenist. The life of the abbé, which had been published at Brussels, was pronounced heretical by the holy congregation of the office, and burned by the hands of the hangman; but the reputation of the defunct flourished under this persecution. His tomb was surrounded by crowds of devotees, the lame were cured, the blind were restored to sight; so that the catalogue of miracles daily increased, until the burying-ground of St. Médard was shut up by the king’s express arret, and then the saint being deprived of his retinue, sank into oblivion.Four champions fierce,Strive here for mastery, and to battle bringTheir embryon atoms.—Paradise Lost.