« ZurückWeiter »
l'Hôpital. The hospitality of Chantilly was offered to her by the Prince de Condé; at the camp of Compiègne she was received with royal honors by M. de la Tour du Pin; and at one of her levees the grand aumônier of the king and the Papal Nuncio were seen in attendance, and to hand her her mules as she descended from bed. The mutual mistrust, however, of Choiseul and the Du Barry was too deeply-seated not to reappear, and too necessary to the schemes of D'Aiguillon and Maupéou to be allowed to die. Prompted by her coterie, the favorite invented daily some malicious device suggesting to the king the dismissal of the minister. Now she tossed an orange up in the air crying, "Saute Choiseul," now on the dismissal of her chef de cuisine she cried to the king, "J'ai renvoyé mon Choiseul;" until at last the weak-minded monarch submitted to the intrigue, and exiled the minister to his estate at Chanteloup, with a letter couched in terms of the most ungracious and imperious brevity.
The dismissal of Choiseul was the only instance of the political action of Madame du Barry; she was after all, as her subsequent life, up to the time of her tragic end in the days of terror, proved, a bonne fille, and bore no malice against any one. She did what she could to alleviate the disgrace of Choiseal; but the necessities of her infamous position entailed upon her the practice of all the arts calculated to gratify and enslave a worn-out debauchee. The vices of the king had long thrown off the mask of refinement. He delighted in coarse language and vulgar familiar ity. The number of the victims of his profligate indulgences continually increased; and at length it was from one of these wretched beings that he caught the small-pox which carried him off.
The king's death-bed was one of the most revolting scenes in all history. The Du Barry and her associates up to the last moment succeeded in keeping away the king's confessor. The Archbishop of Paris, warned by Richelieu that the dismissal of the Du Barry would be the signal for the return of Choiseul, temporized with the king's conscience as long as any hope remained of his recovery. The subject of hot dispute between the Choiseul and d'AguilTon factions was whether the king should have the sacraments administered to him or no; and the salons of the Du Barry were crowded or empty just as the news of the king's improvement or the contrary swayed to and fro the tide of the depraved courtiers. At last, in the midst of a repulsive scene between the dying sexagenarian and his mistress, the Archbishop, with a sudden impulse of indignation, interfered, insisted on her retirement, and the reign of the Du Barry was at an end.
The last words on record of the king were, "Quoiqu'il ne dût compte de sa conduite qu'à Dieu seul, il se repentait d'avoir causé du scandale à ses sujets.” Thus, in even his very meagre expression of contrition, evincing all the pride of absolutism with his dying breath.
The character of Louis XV. is one on which all the arts of indignant rhetoric are thrown away. The story of his life cannot be made more shameful than truth itself displays it. One trait, however, is wanting to complete the delineation of his worthless nature-his mania for speculating in corn. He became the chief partner of a company which forestalled corn, and was in fact a monopoly. From the exceptional advantages they enjoyed, they created periods of local and artificial famine in the dif
Just a year before his death the Abbé de Beauvais had the courage, in preaching before him on the Thursday in Holy Week, to throw out the following daring allusion to the last shameful liaison of the king:-"Salomon, rassasie des voluptés, las d'avoir épuisé, pour réveiller ses sens flétris, tous les genres de plaisir qui entourent le trône, finit par en chercher une espèce nouvelle dans les bishopric. NEW SERIES-VOL. VI. No. 3.
*It is but just to Louis XV. to say that the Abbé de Beauvais, who, in spite of his aristocratic name was of very humble origin, was not sent to the Bastile for his boldness, but rewarded with a
ferent provinces for purposes of private gain. The king thus traded on the hunger of his people. The most abject courtier of Versailles could not avoid feeling a twinge of shame when he noted on his bureau day by day the lists of the prices of grain in the different provinces as a guide for speculation. From such shameful dealings arose the legend of the Pacte de famine which lingered in the memories of the people, and the spectre of which arose in terrible form during the most horrible scenes of the Revolution. The populace, it must be remembered, went to Versailles to seek the boulanger. It was at this period of the reign that the following lines were affixed to the pedestal of his statue recently put up in the Place Louis XV., now the Place de la Concorde :
"Il est ici comme à Versailles
Sans cœur et sans entrailles."
The Family Compact left behind it likewise a fatal remembrance, and the blood of the slain so uselessly and shamefully squandered in the Seven Years' War haunted the memory of the people, made hateful all thought of the Austrian alliance, and gave a deadlier intensity to the vengeance which sought for the life of the Autrichienne.
One very peculiar characteristic of the government of Louis XV. which we have not hitherto touched upon, was the system of secret diplomacy he carried on unknown to his ministers. It may be said that he was doubly to blame for the evil which he brought upon France, as he had twofold means of knowing the real state of affairs. This underhand correspondence was maintained by the king at very great cost; the Prince de Conti directed it under the king's orders. That mysterious character, the Chevalier d'Eon, so well known in London, was one of his clandestine agents. The expense of these emissaries was defrayed out of the king's profits in his corn speculations. By means of these occult practices the king was frequently better informed than his own ministers; and it was one of the pleasures of his strange nature to revel with an inexpressive face in the inward enjoyment of his superior knowledge, and not to show a trace of it to his official advisers. None of his
mistresses were able to discover the source of this private intelligence, although the king suspected Madame de Pompadour of having once obtained access to the cabinet in which the papers were kept by means of a golden key taken from his person in a moment of convivial excess."
Modern history can certainly find no parallel to so long and so shameful a reign as that of Louis XV., and to the legacy of ignominy and disorder entailed upon the nation cursed with such a sovereign. He succeeded in utterly annihilating the magnificent prestige with which the virtues of Saint Louis, the wisdom and valor of Henri IV., and the great ambition of Louis XIV. had surrounded the monarchy.
The consideration that the monarch knew and felt to what an abyss the nation was descending rendered still more criminal the apathy and vice of his remorseless reign." Tout cela durera autant que moi. Après nous le déluge," was the selfish consolation in which he shrouded himself, and he died as he lived, without a tinge of anything like contrition.* Yet he was not without qualities which might have been turned to some good had he ever been subjected to any kind of moral discipline, and had there not been a fatal lack of will and decision of purpose which left him, as an observer said, with less power in the middle of his court than an avocat of the châtelet.
Though there was a lamentable absence of the ideal in his character,—an utter incapacity for enjoying any of the
*The king's character by continual demoralization acquired an incredible degree of cynicism. He was present on one occasion when courtiers were speaking of an officer who was coarse, bru tal, and ill-mannerly, though a good soldier. "Enfin," the king said, "c'est un brave homme, c'est tout dire!" Thus attempting to bring cou tempt on the last remaining virtue of the noblesse -courage. The Cross of St. Louis was brought into disrepute by being given for the worst ser vices. The Duc de la Vrillière, at the instance of
a courtesan, spat upon it.
Like Henry III., Louis XV. endeavored to associate profligacy with devotional practices; he would read sermons to his mistresses, and go down on his knees and pray with his victims in the Parc aux Cerfs. He was fond of talking about worms, and epitaphs; he professed to have the maladies, death-bed scenes, and graves, and gift of reading death in a courtier's face, and ter rified several of them with a notice of this kind.
pleasures of the imagination; though he had none of the literary or artistic tastes of Louis XIV., yet his letters to the Maréchal de Noailles prove that he was not wanting in political capacity, He was very good-humored; indulgent to those about him, and harsh to his subjects; he submitted to any neglect on the part of his attendants with the utmost patience; he was not unnecessarily cruel, and, provided he could have a life of undisturbed enjoyment, he wanted no change, and was willing that everybody else should be at peace too, and would have had, as d'Argenson says, no objection even to add the satisfaction of a little glory to the rest of his pleasures, if it had not cost too much trouble. But between the promptings of his own judgment, the advice of ministers, the counter-schemes of their rivals, and the intrigues of his mistresses, he could rarely decide upon any line of action, and if he did, after a short effort he resigned himself to his former apathy.
But without attempting to absolve the king from the immense weight of ignominy which will forever remain at tached to his memory, it must be allowed that he was essentially the product of his age and of his time. Eleven years before the death of Louis XIV., in the year 1709, Leibnitz, with most prophetic foresight, signalized the increase of the spirit of disbelief in Providence and in a future state of retribution, together with the total absence of all generous feeling and patriotic spirit, and of care for true fame or for posterity, and declared that a vast revolution must certainly arrive to chastise the infidelity of the age. Later, in the century d'Argenson, in many remarkable passages, testifies to the progress of evil which had continued to degrade the minds of men. The outer show of society was never more brilliant or captivating. The charm of manner, the refinement of taste, the polish of the language of intercourse, had never attained greater perfection; all was glitter on the surface, but all was rottenness below. Frivolity, selfishness, contempt for all that was elevated and noble, no genuine devotion, an entire absence of all ideal aspiration and of all the sterling affections of the heart, were united with courtly servility and a mere mechanical uniformity in religious ob
"Le cœur est une faculté dont nous nous privons chaque jour faute d'exercice, au lieu que l'esprit s'anime chaque jour. C'est l'esprit joint au cœur qui forme l'héroïsme, le courage, le sublime, et d'où résulte le génie. Faute d'affection et de la faculté cordiale, ce royaume-ci périra, je le prédis.
"On ne voit que des gens aujourd'hui" he says elsewhere, "dont le cœur est bête comme un cochon; car ce siècle est tourné à cette paralysie de cœur."
It is impossible to imagine to what lower depths yet such a society might have descended had human intelligence not possessed energy sufficient to throw out some counter-irritants to rouse into activity and revolt the dormant energies of both heart and soul. Given the preceding history of France, all religious sincerity and real earnestness banished from the court and country by the persecution of the Protestants and Jansenists, and the genius and popularity of such teachers as Voltaire and Rousseau become at once intelligible. Yet amid the errors and impurities of their lives and doctrines, each preached a truth of which so corrupt and sceptic a generation had especial need; the one that action should be a chief end of existence; the other, that in the absence of religion the best aids to a moral life are nature and simplicity. The irreligious character of the revolution which these and their fellow-workmen and the Encyclopedists brought about followed logically enough from the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and a century and a half of Satanie persecution directed against the Huguenots-persecutions in the time of Louis XV., not the work of fanatics, but proceeding from a vicious king and a sceptical court. The injury permanently done to the nation by such insensate intolerance is incalculable. The most earnest and devotedly religious spirits of France were either driven into exile or extinguished. When the earnest spirit of Protestantism was driven out, the earnest spirit of Catholicism decayed likewise; a mocking hypocritical uniformity took its place; license and corruption flourished unreproved; and when Deism and Atheism arose, they found no antagonists worthy of respect. It were a melancholy thing
to resign ourselves to the conclusion that so shameful a history as that of Louis XV., and the horrors of the French Revolution, were inflicted on a great people without any intelligible causes. One of the chief of these was the inhuman and odious persecution which the devoted adherents of an austere and sublime creed met with from the day of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
THE Plantagenets, Lancasters, Tudors, and Stuarts, who in turn ruled this island of ours, all rejoiced in a plethora of valuables in the shape of jewelry and plate, which they were not slow in discovering might be put to other than ornamental purposes. Wise in their generation, they never thought of putting the crown jewels in a glass case, for their subjects to stare and wonder at, but kept the precious treasures in chests and closets, that they could empty at their pleasure and convenience.
and a fine collection of amethysts, topazes, sapphires, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, carbuncles, garnets, and chalce donies. These were deposited in Westminster Abbey; but the authorities there seem to have been rather lax in their guardianship. Taking the opportunity of Edward's departure for Scotland in 1303, certain burglarious monks and their associates broke into the treasure-cham ber, and abstracted some of its most valuable contents; finding customers for their plunder in London, Colchester, and Northampton. The thieves were not without discretion; they wisely left the crowns alone, and threw the consecration ring and Henry III.'s secret seal on the floor; while their patient waiting and careful preparation were quite equal to that of our modern Caseleysthey actually sowed the Abbey cemetery with hemp-seed four months beforehand, calculating that the hemp would afford them a hiding-place for the booty, by the time they wanted one. One of the robbers was taken with above two thousand pounds' worth of property upon him; and he confessed to having himself removed a great crucifix, a silver-gilt Virgin, two little silver pitchers, three pouches full of jewels and vessels, besides gold and silver spoons, dishes, cups, saucers, rings, girdles, and precious stones. The Abbot of Westminster, the sacristan, and forty-eight monks were committed to the Tower, on suspicion of having directly or indirectly assisted in this daring raid upon the royal treasure-house; and some of them remained prisoners for two years; but of the fate of the actual thieves we can find no record.
When Henry III. began to quarrel with his nobles, he provided against probable contingencies by confiding the royal jewels and plate to the care of the queen of France. His foresight was rewarded; for when the successful rebellion of the barons made money scarce with him, he had no difficulty in obtaining a supply from the French merchants upon the security of his valuables, which he left his successor to redeem. Edward I. contrived to order his affairs so well as never to be reduced to the in- Edward III. raised the sinews of war dignity of pawning his crown jewels, of by pawning his crown and sundry jewwhich he possessed a goodly store. He els to the Flemings. His grandson got owned no less than four crowns-one possession of them again, but only to set with rubies, emeralds, and pearls; consign them to the Bishop of London one set with Indian pearls only; a third and the Earl of Arundel, as security for mounted with emeralds and rubies; and a loan of ten thousand pounds. Shakmost valuable of all, the great crown of speare makes Bolingbroke's adherents gold used at his coronation, ornamented assert that the proud rebel returned to with emeralds, sapphires, rubies, and England to "redeem from broking pawn large eastern pearls. Among his lesser the blemished crown." The improvitreasures were gilt combs and mirrors, dent Richard was even obliged to pawn pearl-covered ewers, silver-gilt mugs, his favorite ornaments, his "jewelled knives and forks in silver sheaths, cross- white harts." Henry IV. kept clear of es set with precious stones, silver gir- the pawnbroker; but when the quondles and trumpets, gold clasps and rings, dam roysterer of Eastcheap came to his
regal inheritance, it might have been expected that the crown jewels would be sent on their travels, if not got rid of altogether. Henry V. certainly did pawn some of his jewels, but it was for a great object. When he resolved to submit his claims on France to the arbitrament of the sword, he raised part of the funds required for his memorable campaign by pawning his "Rich Collar" (valued at £2,800) to the mayor and commonalty of London; and his Skelton Collar, garnished with rubies, sapphires, and pearls, to the Bishop of Worcester and the city of Coventry. The first, he redeemed the following year; but the Skelton Collar was in pawn when the hero of Agincourt died. His unwarlike and unfortunate son, thanks to the civil strife marking his reign, was obliged to raise money on his jewels again and again. In 1439, he borrowed seven thousand marks from his rich uncle, the Cardinal Bishop of Winchester, depositing with that wealthy ecclesiastic the Rich Collar (upon which alone his father had obtained ten thousand marks); a gold sword garnished with sapphires, known as the Sword of Spain; the Sklyngton Collar; three gold tablets-of St. George, Our Lady, and Christ's Passion; a great alms-dish, "made in maner of a shipp full of men of armes feyghtyng upon the shipp side;" and divers chargers, dishes, chalices, pots, basins, and saucers. bishop-his king's uncle in a double sense-seems to have taken care of his own interest, for the whole of the valuables thus pawned to him were to become his absolute property, unless redeemed within twelve months' time. A few years later, Henry handed over two gold basins, a gold tablet, and a little bell of the same material, to the Earl of !Buckingham, as security for the payment of himself and his soldiers for services rendered in France.
Succeeding monarchs appear to have kept the crown jewels for their proper use; Elizabeth indeed lent money instead of borrowing, and left behind her a cupboard full of plate, belonging to the House of Burgundy, which she held as security for advances made to the States of Brabant. One of the first things James I. did, after his arrival in London, was to order an inventory to
be made of all the jewels and valuables left by Elizabeth; and to collect those she had allowed to remain in the charge of certain lords and ladies. The Earl of Suffolk was asked to replace a quarter of a million's worth; he did not replace them, however, but put in a plea of condonation. Among the crown jewels inventoried by the order of James, we find a crown imperial of gold; two circlets of gold; fifteen gold collars; "a great and rich jewel of gold called the Mirror of Great Britain, containing one very fair table diamond; one very fair table ruby; two other large diamonds, cut lozenge-wise, garnished with small diamonds; two round pearls; and one fair diamond cut in fawcetts;" a great two-handed sword, garnished with silver, presented to Henry VIII. by the pope; and three pieces "esteemed to be of unicorn's horn." In the year 1617, James was much offended with the aldermen of London because they refused to advance him a hundred thousand pounds upon the crown jewels, that sum being wanted to defray the moiety of the cost of his progress into Scotland; however, he contrived to raise sixty thousand pounds upon them in some other quarter. His Majesty's progresses were expensive affairs. Two years af terward, Chamberlain, writing to Sir Dudley Carleton that the king intends making a petty progress to Otelands, Oking, and Windsor, says: "We are driven to hardships for money, and all too little, so that we are fain to make sale of jewels for twenty thousand pounds to furnish out this progress ;" but it seems that his Majesty or her Majesty--for they were the queen's jewels that were pledged on this occasion
could not persuade Master Peter Van Lore to advance more than eighteen thousand pounds. Chamberlain consoles himself with the reflection, that "the choice of pearls and other rare jewels are not touched, among which there is a carquenet of round and long pearls, rated at forty thousand pounds, in the judgment of Lord Digby and others, the fairest that are to be found in Christendom."
Charles I. followed in his father's footsteps, and when he wanted money, sought, as a matter of course, to raise it upon the crown jewels. In the very