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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Thirty nine noblemen signed a petition


Throughout

the successive periods of intoxication and despair caused by the necessary and logical development of Law's system, the Duke of Orleans had dealt other blows and directed other affairs of importance. Easy-going, indolent, often absorbed by his pleasures, the Regent found no great difficulty in putting up with the exaltation of the legitimatized princes; it had been for him sufficient to wrest authority from the Duke of Maine, he let him enjoy the privileges of a prince of the blood. "I kept silence during the king's lifetime," he would say; "I will not be mean enough to break it now he is dead." But the Duke of Bourbon, heir of the House of Conde, fierce in temper, violent in his hate, greedy of honors as well as of money, had just arrived at man's estate, and was wroth at sight of the bastards' greatness. He drew after him the Count of Charolais his brother, and the Prince of Conti his cousin; on the 22d of April, 1716, all three presented to the king a request for the revocation of Louis XIV.'s edict declaring his legitimatized sons princes of the blood, and capable of succeeding to the throne. The Duchess of Maine, generally speaking very indifferent about her husband, whom she treated haughtily, like a true daughter of the House of Conde, flew into a violent passion, this time, at her cousins' unexpected attack; she was for putting her own hand to the work of drawing up the memorial of her husband and of her brother-in-law, the Count of Toulouse. "The greater part of
the nights was employed at it," says Madame de Stael, at that time Mdlle. do Launay, a person of much wit, half lady's maid, half reader to the duchess. "The huge volumes, heaped up on her bed like mountains overwhelming her, caused her," she used to say, "to look, making due allowances, like Enceladus, buried under Mount AEtna. I was present at the work, and I also used to turn over the leaves of old chronicles and of ancient and modern jurisconsults, until excess of fatigue disposed the princess to take some repose."

[Illustration: The Duke of Maine----71]

All this toil ended in the following declaration on the part of the legitimatized princes: "The affair, being one of state, cannot be decided but by a king, who is a major, or indeed by the States-general." At the same time, and still at the instigation of the Duchess of Maine, thirty- nine noblemen signed a petition, modestly addressad to "Our Lords of the Parliament," demanding, in their turn, that the affair should be referred to the states-general, who alone were competent, when it was a question of the succession to the throne.

The Regent saw the necessity of firmness. "It is a maxim," he declared, "that the king is always a major as regards justice; that which was done without the states-general has no need of their intervention to be undone." The decree of the council of regency, based on the same principles, suppressed the right of succession to the crown, and cut short all pretensions on the part of the legitimatized princes' issue to the rank of princes of the blood; the rights thereto were maintained in the case of the Duke of Maine and the Count of Toulouse, for their lives, by the bounty of the Regent, "which did not prevent the Duchess of Maine from uttering loud shrieks, like a maniac," says St. Simon, "or the Duchess of Orleans from weeping night and day, and refusing for two months to see anybody." Of the thirty-nine members of the nobility who had signed the petition to Parliament, six were detained in prison for a month, after which the Duke of Orleans pardoned them. "You know me, well enough to be aware that I am only nasty when I consider myself positively obliged to be," he said to them. The patrons, whose cause these noblemen had lightly embraced, were not yet at the end of their humiliations.


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