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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Madame de Montespan was haughty


[Illustration:

Madame de Montespan 12]

It was no longer the time of "this tiny violet that hides itself in the grass," as Madame de Sevigne used to remark. Madame de Montespan was haughty, passionate, "with hair dressed in a thousand ringlets, a majestic beauty to show off to the ambassadors: "she openly paraded the favor she was in, accepting and angling for the graces the king was pleased to do her and hers, having the superintendence of the household of the queen whom she insulted without disguise, to the extent of wounding the king himself. "Pray consider that she is your mistress," he said one day to his favorite. The scandal was great; Bossuet attempted the task of stopping it. It was the time of the Jubilee: neither the king nor Madame de Montespan had lost all religious feeling; the wrath of God and the refusal of the sacraments had terrors for them still. Madame de Montespan left the court after some stormy scenes; the king set out for Flanders. "Pluck this sin from your heart, Sir," Bossuet wrote to him; "and not only this sin, but the cause of it; go even to the root. In your triumphant march amongst the people whom you constrain to recognize your might, would you consider yourself secure of a rebel fortress if your enemy still had influence there? We hear of nothing but the magnificence of your troops, of what they are capable under your leadership! And as for me, Sir, I think in my secret heart of a war far more important, of a far more

difficult victory which God holds out before you. What would it avail you to be dreaded and victorious without, when you are vanquished and captive within?" "Pray God for me," wrote the bishop at the same time to Marshal Bellefonds, "pray Him to deliver me from the greatest burden man can have to bear, or to quench all that is man in me, that I may act for Him only. Thank God, I have never yet thought, during the whole course of this business, of my belonging to the world; but that is not all; what is wanted is to be a St. Ambrose, a true man of God, a man of that other life, a man in whom everything should speak, with whom all his words should be oracles of the Holy Spirit, all his conduct celestial; pray, pray, I do beseech you."

At the bottom of his soul, and in the innermost sanctuary of his conscience, Bossuet felt his weakness; he saw the apostolic severance from the world, the apostolic zeal and fervor required for the holy crusade he had undertaken. "Your Majesty has given your promise to God and the world," he wrote to Louis XIV. in, ignorance of the secret correspondence still kept up between the king and Madame de Montespan. "I have been to see her," added the prelate. "I find her pretty calm; she occupies herself a great deal in good works. I spoke to her as well as to you the words in which God commands us to give Him our whole heart; they caused her to shed many tears; may it please God to fix these truths in the bottom of both your hearts, and accomplish His work, in order that so many tears, so much violence, so many strains that you have put upon yourselves, may not be fruitless."


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