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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Had at last enregistered the edict relating to non Catholics


and by the advice of M. de

Brienne, for and in whom Louis XVI. never felt any liking or confidence. "There is no more happiness for me since they have made me an intriguer," she said sadly to Madame Campan. And when the latter objected: "Yes," replied the queen, "it is the proper word: every woman who meddles in matters above her lights and beyond the limits of her duty, is nothing but an intriguer; you will remember, however, that I do not spare myself, and that it is with regret I give myself such a title. The other day, as I was crossing the Bull's Eye (_Eil de Boeuf_), to go to a private committee at the king's, I heard one of the chapel-band say out loud, 'A queen who does her duty remains in her rooms at her needlework.' I said to myself: 'Thou'rt quite right, wretch; but thou know'st not my position; I yield to necessity and my evil destiny.'" A true daughter of Maria Theresa in her imprisonment and on the scaffold, Marie Antoinette had neither the indomitable perseverance nor the simple grandeur in political views which had restored the imperial throne in the case of her illustrious mother. She weakened beneath a burden too heavy for a mind so long accustomed to the facile pleasures of youth. "The queen certainly has wits and firmness which might suffice for great things," wrote her friend, the Count of La Marck, to M. de Mercy Argenteau, her mother's faithful agent in France; "but it must be confessed that, whether in business or in mere conversation, she does not always exhibit that degree
of attention and that persistence which are indispensable for getting at the bottom of what one ought to know, in order to prevent errors and to insure success."

The same want of purpose and persistence of which the Count of La Marck complained was strikingly apparent everywhere and in all matters; the Duke of Orleans was soon tired of banishment; he wrote to the queen, who obtained his recall. The ministers were making mysterious preparations for a grand stroke. The Parliament, still agitated and anxious, had at last enregistered the edict relating to non-Catholics. Public opinion, like the government, supported it eagerly; the principles of tolerance which had prompted it were henceforth accepted by all; certain bishops and certain bigots were still trying to hinder this first step towards a legal status for a long while refused to Protestants. M. d'Espremesnil, an earnest disciple of the _philosophe inconnu,_ the mystic St. Martin, just as he had been the dupe of Mesmer and of Cagliostro, was almost single-handed in the Parliament in his opposition to the registration of the edict. Extending his hand towards the crucifix, he exclaimed with violence: "Would you crucify him a second time?" The court was a better judge of Christian principles, and Protestants were permitted to be born, to marry, and to die on French territory. The edict did not as yet concede to them any other right.

The contest extended as it grew hotter; everywhere the parliaments took up the quarrel of the court of Paris; the formation of the provincial assemblies furnished new centres of opposition; the petty noblesse made alliance with the magistracy; the antagonism of principles became every day more evident; after the five months elapsed since the royal session, the Parliament was still protesting against the violence done to it. "I had no need to take or count the votes," said the king's reply; "being present at the deliberation, I judged for myself without taking any account of plurality. If plurality in my courts were to force my will, the monarchy would be nothing but an aristocracy of magistrates." "No, sir, no aristocracy in France, but no despotism either," replied the members of parliament.


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