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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

With close restrictions as to the Duke of Orleans


Madame de Maintenon, as sad

as the king, "naturally mistrustful, addicted to jealousies, susceptibilities, suspicions, aversions, spites, and woman's wiles " [_Lettres de Fenelon au duc de Chevreuse_], being, moreover, sincerely attached to the king's natural children, was constantly active on their behalf. On the 19th of July, 1714, the king announced to the premier president and the attorney-general of the Parliament of Paris that it was his pleasure to grant to the Duke of Maine and to the Count of Toulouse, for themselves and their descendants, the rank of princes of the blood, in its full extent, and that he desired that the deeds should be enregistered in the Parliament. Soon after, still under the same influence, he made a will which was kept a profound secret, and which he sent to be deposited in the strong-room (_greffe_) of the Parliament, committing the guardianship of the future king to the Duke of Maine, and placing him, as well his brother, on the council of regency, with close restrictions as to the Duke of Orleans, who would he naturally called to the government of the kingdom during the minority. The will was darkly talked about; the effect of the elevation of bastards to the rank of princes of the blood had been terrible. "There was no longer any son of France; the Spanish branch had renounced; the Duke of Orleans had been carefully placed in such a position as not to dare say a word or show the least dissatisfaction; his only son was a child; neither the Duke (of Berry), his brothers,
nor the Prince of Conti, were of an age or of standing, in the king's eyes, to make the least trouble in the world about it. The bombshell dropped all at once when nobody could have expected it, and everybody fell on his stomach as is done when a shell drops; everybody was gloomy and almost wild; the king himself appeared as if exhausted by so great an effort of will and power. He had only just signed his will, when he met, at Madame de Maintenon's, the Ex-Queen of England. "I have made my will, Madame," said he. "I have purchased repose; I know the impotence and uselessness of it; we can do all we please as long as we are here; after we are gone, we can do less than private persons; we have only to look at what became of my father's, and immediately after his death too, and of those of so many other kings. I am quite aware of that; but, in spite of all that, it was desired; and so, Madame, you see it has been done; come of it what may, at any rate I shall not be worried about it any more." It was the old man yielding to the entreaties and intrigues of his domestic circle; the judgment of the king remained steady and true, without illusions and without prejudices.

Death was coming, however, after a reign which had been so long and had occupied so much room in the world that it caused mistakes as to the very age of the king. He was seventy-seven; he continued to work with his ministers; the order so long and so firmly established was, not disturbed by illness any more than it had


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