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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

The king had gone to be with him at Meudon


king did not reply at all, and Madame de Maintenon but coldly, begging the princess, however, to go to Versailles. There she passed but a short time, and received notice to leave the kingdom. With great difficulty she obtained an asylum at Rome, where she lived seven years longer, preserving all her health, strength, mind, and easy grace until she died, in 1722, at more than eighty-four years of age, in obscurity and sadness, notwithstanding her opulence, but avenged of her Spanish foes, Cardinals della Giudice and Alberoni, whom she met again at Rome, disgraced and fugitive like herself. "I do not know where I may die," she wrote to Madame de Maintenon, at that time in retirement at St. Cyr. Both had survived their power; the Princess des Ursins had not long since wanted to secure for herself a dominion; Madame de Maintenon, more far-sighted and more modest, had aspired to no more than repose in the convent which she had founded and endowed. Discreet in her retirement as well as in her life, she had not left to chance the selection of a place where she might die.

[Illustration: Death of Madame de Maintenon.----34]


"One has no more luck at our age," Louis XIV. had said to his old friend Marshal Villars, returning from his most disastrous campaign. It was a bitter reflection upon himself

which had put these words into the king's mouth. After the most brilliant, the most continually and invariably triumphant of reigns, he began to see Fortune slipping away from him, and the grievous consequences of his errors successively overwhelming the state. "God is punishing me; I have richly deserved it," he said to Marshal Villars, who was on the point of setting out for the battle of Denain. The aged king, dispirited and beaten, could not set down to men his misfortunes and his reverses; the hand of God Himself was raised against his house. Death was knocking double knocks all round him. The grand-dauphin had for some days past been ill of small-pox. The king had gone to be with him at Meudon, forbidding the court to come near the castle. The small court of Monseigneur were huddled together in the lofts. The king was amused with delusive hopes; his chief physician, Fagon, would answer for the invalid. The king continued to hold his councils as usual, and the deputation of market-women (_dames de la Halle_), come from Paris to have news of Monseigneur, went away, declaring that they would go and sing a Te Deum, as he was nearly well. "It is not time yet, my good women," said Monseigneur, who had given them a reception. That very evening he was dead, without there having been time to send for his confessor in ordinary. "The parish priest of Meudon, who used to look in every evening before he went home, had found all the doors open, the valets distracted, Fagon heaping remedy upon remedy without waiting for them to take effect. He entered the room, and hurrying to Monseigneur's bedside, took his hand and spoke to him of God. The poor prince was fully conscious, but almost speechless. He repeated distinctly a few words, others inarticulately, smote his breast, pressed the priest's hand, appeared to have the most excellent sentiments, and received absolution with an air of contrition and wistfulness." [Memoires de St. Simon, ix.] Meanwhile word had been sent to the king, who arrived quite distracted. The Princess of Conti, his daughter, who was deeply attached to Monseigneur, repulsed him gently: "You must think only of yourself now, Sir," she said. The king let himself sink down upon a sofa, asking news of all that came out of the room, without any one's daring to give him an answer. Madame de Maintenon, who had hurried to the king, and was agitated without being affected, tried to get him away; she did not succeed, however, until Monseigneur had breathed his last. He passed along to his carriage between two rows of officers and valets, all kneeling, and conjuring him to have pity upon them who had lost all and were like to starve.

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