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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Formerly attached as menin to the person of Monseigneur


[Illustration: The King leaving the Death-bed of Monseigneur----36]

The excitement and confusion at Versailles were tremendous. From the moment that small-pox was declared, the princes had not been admitted to Meudon. The Duchess of Burgundy alone had occasionally seen the king. All were living in confident expectation of a speedy convalescence; the news of the death came upon them like a thunderclap. All the courtiers thronged together at once, the women half dressed, the men anxious and concerned, some to conceal their extreme sorrow, others their joy, according as they were mixed up in the different cabals of the court. "It was all, however, nothing but a transparent veil," says St. Simon, "which did not prevent good eyes from observing and discerning all the features. The two princes and the two princesses, seated beside them, taking care of them, were most exposed to view. The Duke of Burgundy wept, from feeling and in good faith, with an air of gentleness, tears of nature, of piety, and of patience. The Duke of Berry, in quite as good faith, shed abundance, but tears, so to speak, of blood, so great appeared to be their bitterness; he gave forth not sobs, but shrieks, howls. The Duchess of Berry (daughter of the Duke of Orleans) was beside herself. The bitterest despair was depicted on her face. She saw her sister-in-law, who was so hateful to her, all at once raised to that title, that rank of dauphiness, which were about to place so great a distance between them. Her frenzy of grief was not from affection, but from interest; she would wrench herself from it to sustain her husband, to embrace him, to console him, then she would become absorbed in herself again with a torrent of tears, which helped her to stifle her shrieks. The Duke of Orleans wept in his own corner, actually sobbing, a thing which, had I not seen it, I should never have believed," adds St. Simon, who detested Monseigneur, and had as great a dread of his reigning as the Duke of Orleans had. "Madame, re-dressed in full dress, in the middle of the night, arrived regularly howling, not quite knowing why either one or the other; inundating them all with her tears as she embraced them, and making the castle resound with a renewal of shrieks, when the king's carriages were announced, on his return to Marly." The Duchess of Burgundy was awaiting him on the road. She stepped down and went to the carriage window. "What are you about, Madame?" exclaimed Madame de Maintenon; "do not come near us, we are infectious." The king did not embrace her, and she went back to the palace, but only to be at Marly next morning before the king was awake.

The king's tears were as short as they had been abundant. He lost a son who was fifty years old, the most submissive and most respectful creature in the world, ever in awe of him and obedient to him, gentle and good-natured, a proper man amid all his indolence and stupidity, brave and even brilliant at head of an army. In 1688, in front of Philipsburg, the soldiers had given him the name of "Louis the Bold." He was full of spirits and always ready, "revelling in the trenches," says Vauban. The Duke of Montausier, his boyhood's strict governor, had written to him, "Monseigneur, I do not make you my compliments on the capture of Philipsburg; you had a fine army, shells, cannon, and Vauban. I do not make them to you either on your bravery; it is an hereditary virtue in your house; but I congratulate you on being open-handed, humane, generous, and appreciative of the services of those who do well; that is what I make you my compliments upon." "Did not I tell you so?" proudly exclaimed the Chevalier de Grignan, formerly attached (as menin) to the person of Monseigneur, on hearing his master's exploits lauded; "for my part, I am not surprised." Racine had exaggerated the virtues of Monseigneur in the charming verses of the prologue of Esther:


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