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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

In the place of the Duke of Aiguillon


M.

de Maurepas, grandson of Chancellor Pontchartrain, had been provided for, at fourteen years of age, by Louis XIV. with the reversion of the ministry of marine, which had been held by his father, and had led a frivolous and pleasant life; through good fortune and evil fortune he clung to the court; when he was recalled thither, at the age of sixty- three, on the suggestion of Madame Adelaide, the queen's aunt, and of the dukes of Aiguillon and La Vrilliere, both of them ministers and relations of his, he made up his mind that he would never leave it again. On arriving at Versailles, he used the expression, "premier minister." "Not at all," said the king abruptly. "O, very well," replied M. de Maurepas, "then to teach your Majesty to do without one." Nobody, however, did any business with Louis XVI. without his being present, and his address was sufficient to keep at a distance or diminish the influence of the princesses as well as of the queen. Marie Antoinette had insisted upon the recall of M. de Choiseul, who had arranged her marriage and who had remained faithful to the Austrian alliance. The king had refused angrily. The sinister accusations which had but lately been current as to the causes of the dauphin's death had never been forgotten by his son.

An able man, in spite of his incurable levity, M. de Maurepas soon sacrificed the Duke of Aiguillon to the queen's resentment; the people attached to the old court accused her of despising

etiquette; it was said that she had laughed when she received the respectful condolence of aged dames looking like beguines in their coifs; already there circulated amongst the public bitter ditties, such as,

My little queen, not twenty-one, Maltreat the folks, as you've begun, And o'er the border you shall run. . . .

The Duke of Aiguillon, always hostile to the Choiseuls and the House of Austria, had lent his countenance to the murmurs; Marie Antoinette was annoyed, and, in her turn, fostered the distrust felt by the people towards the late ministers of Louis XV. In the place of the Duke of Aiguillon, who had the ministry of war and that of foreign affairs both together, the Count of Muy and the Count of Vergennes were called to power. Some weeks later, the obscure minister of marine, M. de Boynes, made way for the superintendent of the district (generalite) of Limoges, M. Turgot.

Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, born at Paris on the 10th of May, 1727, was already known and everywhere esteemed, when M. de Maurepas, at the instance, it is said, of his wife whom he consulted on all occasions, summoned him to the ministry. He belonged to an ancient and important family by whom he had been intended for the Church. When a pupil at Louis-le-Grand college, he spent his allowance so quickly that his parents became alarmed; they learned before long that the young man shared all he received amongst out-of-college pupils too poor to buy books.

This noble concern for the wants of others, as well as his rare gifts of intellect, had gained young


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