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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

And the Princess des Ursins ruled the queen


so I have to talk for two. Immediately after the king has dined, he comes into my room with all the royal family, princes and princesses; then I must be prepared for the gayest of conversation, and wear a smiling face amidst so much distressing news. When this company disperses, some lady has always something particular to say to me; the Duchess of Burgundy also wants to have a chat. The king returns from hunting. He comes to me. The door is shut, and nobody else is admitted. Then I have to share his secret troubles, which are no small number. Arrives a minister; and the king sets himself to work. If I am not wanted at this consultation, which seldom happens, I withdraw to some farther distance and write or pray. I sup, whilst the king is still at work. I am restless, whether he is alone or not. The king says to me, 'You are tired, Madame; go to bed.' My women come. But I feel that they interfere with the king, who would chat with me, and does not like to chat before them; or, perhaps, there are some ministers still there, whom he is afraid they may overhear. Wherefore I make haste to undress, so much so that I often feel quite ill from it. At last I am in bed. The king comes up and remains by my pillow until he goes to supper. But a quarter of an hour before supper, the dauphin and the Duke and Duchess of Burgundy come in to me again. At ten, everybody goes out. At last I am alone, but very often the fatigues of the day prevent me from sleeping."

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

It was, in fact, through Madame de Maintenon and her correspondence with the Princess des Ursins, that the private business between the two courts of France and Spain was often carried on. At Madrid, far more than at Versailles, the influence of women was all-powerful. The queen ruled her husband, who was honest and courageous, but without wit or daring; and the Princess des Ursins ruled the queen, as intelligent and as amiable as her sister the Duchess of Burgundy, but more ambitious and more haughty. Louis XIV. had several times conceived some misgiving of the _camarera major's_ influence over his grandson; she had been disgraced, and then recalled; she had finally established her sway by her fidelity, ability, dexterity, and indomitable courage. She served France habitually, Spain and her own influence in Spain always; she had been charming, with an air of nobility, grace, elegance, and majesty all together, and accustomed to the highest society and the most delicate intrigues, during her sojourn at Rome and Madrid;


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