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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

With free formation of the council of regency


favor of the assembly was plainly with him, and the prince's accents became more firm. "I shall never," said he, "have any other purpose but to relieve the people, to reestablish good order in the finances, to maintain peace at home and abroad, and to restore unity and tranquillity to the church; therein I shall be aided by the wise representations of this august assembly, and I hereby ask for them in anticipation." The Parliament was completely won; the right of representation (or remonstrance) was promised them; the will of Louis XIV. was as good as annulled; it was opened, it was read, and so were the two codicils. All the authority was intrusted to a council of regency of which the Duke of Orleans was to be the head, but without preponderating voice and without power to supersede any of the members, all designated in advance by Louis XIV. The person and the education of the young king, as well as the command of the household troops, were intrusted to the Duke of Maine.

"It was listened to in dead silence, and with a sort of indignation, which expressed itself in all countenances," says St. Simon. "The king, no doubt, did not comprehend the force of what he had been made to do," said the Duke of Orleans; "he assured me in the last days of his life that I should find in his dispositions nothing that I was not sure to be pleased with, and he himself referred the ministers to me on business, with all the orders to be given." He asked,

therefore, to have his regency declared such as it ought to be, "full and independent, with free formation of the council of regency." The Duke of Maine wished to say a word. "You shall speak in your turn, Sir," said the Duke of Orleans in a dry tone. The court immediately decided in his favor by acclamation, and even without proceeding in the regular way to vote. There remained the codicils, which annulled in fact the Regent's authority. A discussion began between the Duke of Orleans and the Duke of Maine; it was causing Philip of Orleans to lose the advantage he had just won; his friends succeeded in making him perceive this, and he put off the session until after dinner. When they returned to the Palace of Justice the codicils were puffed away like the will by the breath of popular favor. The Duke of Maine, despoiled of the command of the king's household, declared that, under such conditions, it was impossible for him to be answerable for the king's person, and that he "demanded to be relieved of that duty." "Most willingly, Sir," replied the Regent; "your services are no longer required;" and he forthwith explained to the Parliament his intention of governing affairs according to the plan which had been found among the papers of the Duke of Burgundy. "Those gentry know little or nothing of the French, and of the way to govern them," had been the remark of Louis XIV. on reading the schemes of Fenelon, the Duke of Beauvilliers, and St. Simon. The Parliament applauded the formation of the six councils of foreign affairs, of finance, of war, of the marine, of home or the interior, of conscience or ecclesiastical affairs; the Regent was intrusted with the free disposal of graces. "I want to be free for good," said he, adroitly repeating a phrase from Telemaque, "I consent to have my hands tied for evil."

The victory was complete. Not a shred remained of Louis XIV.'s will. The Duke of Maine, confounded and humiliated, retired to his Castle of Sceaux, there to endure the reproaches of his wife. The king's affection and Madame de Maintenon's clever tactics had not sufficed to found his power; the remaining vestiges of his greatness were themselves about to vanish before long in their turn.

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