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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

The Princess des Ursins believed him

she was full of foresight and

calculation, but impassioned, ambitious, implacable, pushing to extremes her amity as well as her hatred, faithful to her master and mistress in their most cruel trials, and then hampering and retarding peace for the sake of securing for herself a principality in the Low Countries. Without having risen from the ranks, like Madame de Maintenon, she had reached a less high and less safe elevation; she had been more absolutely and more daringly supreme during the time of her power, and at last she fell with the rudest shock, without any support from Madame de Maintenon. The pretensions of Madame des Ursins during the negotiations had offended France; "this was the stone of stumbling between the two supreme directresses," says St. Simon; after this attempt at sovereignty, there was no longer the same accord between Madame de Maintenon and Madame des Ursins, but this latter had reached in Spain a point at which she more easily supposed that she could dispense with it. The Queen of Spain had died at the age of twenty-six, in 1714; did the princess for a moment conceive the hope of marrying Philip V. in spite of the disproportion in rank and age? Nobody knows; she had already been reigning as sovereign mistress for some months, when she received from the king this stunning command: "Look me out a wife." She obeyed; she looked out. Alberoni, an Italian priest, brought into Spain by the Duke of Vendome, drew her attention to the Princess of Parma, Elizabeth Farnese. The principality
was small, the princess young; Alberoni laid stress upon her sweetness and modesty. "Nothing will be more easy," he said, "than for you to fashion her to Spanish gravity, by keeping her retired; in the capacity of her _camarera major,_ intrusted with her education, you will easily be able to acquire complete sway over her mind." The Princess des Ursins believed him, and settled the marriage. "Cardonne has surrendered at last, Madame," she wrote on the 20th of September, 1714, to Madame de Maintenon; "there is nothing left in Catalonia that is not reduced. The new queen, at her coming into this kingdom, is very fortunate to find no more war there. She whom we have lost would have been beside herself with delight at enjoying peace after having experienced such cruel sufferings of all kinds. The longer I live, the more I see that we are never so near a reverse of Fortune as when she is favorable, or so near receiving favors as when she is maltreating us. For that reason, Madame, if one were wise, one would take her inconstancy graciously."

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

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