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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

De Machault and D'Argenson were exiled


[Illustration:

Assassination of Louis XV. by Damiens----221]

Justice, meanwhile, had taken the wretched murderer in hand. Robert Damiens was a lackey out of place, a native of Artois, of weak mind, and sometimes appearing to be deranged. In his vague and frequently incoherent depositions, he appeared animated by a desire to avenge the wrongs of the Parliament; he burst out against the Archbishop of Paris, Christopher de Beaumont, a virtuous prelate of narrow mind and austere character. "The Archbishop of Paris," he said, "is the cause of all this trouble through ordering refusal of the sacraments." No investigation could discover any conspiracy or accomplices; with less coolness and fanatical resolution than Ravaillac, Damiens, like the assassin of Henry IV., was an isolated criminal, prompted to murder by the derangement of his own mind; he died, like Ravaillac, amidst fearful tortures which were no longer in accord with public sentiment and caused more horror than awe. France had ceased to tremble for the life of King Louis XV.

For one instant the power of Madame de Pompadour had appeared to be shaken; the king, in his terror, would not see her; M. de Machault, but lately her protege, had even brought her orders to quit the palace. Together with the salutary terrors of death, Louis XV.'s repentance soon disappeared; the queen and the dauphin went back again to the modest and pious retirement in which they passed their

life; the marchioness returned in triumph to Versailles. MM. de Machault and D'Argenson were exiled; the latter, who had always been hostile to the favorite, was dismissed with extreme harshness. The king had himself written the sealed letter "Your services are no longer required. I command you to send me your resignation of the secretaryship of state for war, and of all that appertains to the posts connected therewith, and to retire to your estate of Ormes." Madame de Pompadour was avenged.

The war, meanwhile, continued; the King of Prussia, who had at first won a splendid victory over the Austrians in front of Prague, had been beaten at Kolin, and forced to fall back on Saxony. Marshal d'Estrees, slowly occupying Westphalia, had got the Duke of Cumberland into a corner on the Weser.

On the morning of July 23, 1757, the marshal summoned all his lieutenant-generals. "Gentlemen," he said to them, "I do not assemble you to-day to ask whether we should attack M. de Cumberland and invest Hameln. The honor of the king's arms, his wishes, his express orders, the interest of the common cause, all call for the strongest measures. I only seek, therefore, to profit by your lights, and to combine with your assistance the means most proper for attacking with advantage." A day or two after, July 26, the Duke of Cumberland, who had fallen back on the village of Hastenbeck, had his intrenchments forced; he succeeded in beating a retreat without being pursued; an able movement of Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, and a perhaps intentional mistake on the part of M. de Maillebois had caused a momentary confusion in the French army. Marshal d'Estrees, however, was not destined to enjoy for long the pleasure of his victory. Even before he had given battle the Duke of Richelieu had set out from Versailles to supersede him in his command.

The conquest of Port Mahon had thrown around Richelieu a halo of glory; in Germany, he reaped the fruits of Marshal d'Estrees' successes; the Electorate of Hanover was entirely occupied; all the towns opened their gates; Hesse Cassel, Brunswick, the duchies of Verden and of Bremen met with the same fate. The marshal levied on all the conquered countries heavy contributions, of which he pocketed a considerable portion. His soldiers called him "Father La Maraude." The pavilion of Hanover at Paris was built out of the spoils of Germany. Meanwhile, the Duke of Cumberland, who had taken refuge in the marshes at the mouth of the Elbe, under the protection of English vessels, was demanding to capitulate; his offers were lightly accepted. On the 8th of September, through the agency of Count Lynar, minister of the King of Denmark, the Duke of Cumberland and the marshal signed at the advanced posts of the French army the famous convention of Closter-Severn. The king's troops kept all the conquered country; those of Hesse, Brunswick, and Saxe-Gotha returned to their homes; the Hanoverians were to be cantoned in the neighborhood of Stade. The marshal had not taken the precaution of disarming them.


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