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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

In presence of that premier president


the same air the Duke of Orleans passed to the bed of justice, "with a gentle but resolute majesty, which was quite new to him; eyes observant, but bearing grave and easy; M. le Duc staid, circumspect, surrounded by a sort of radiance that adorned his whole person, and under perceptible restraint; the keeper of the seals, in his chair, motionless, gazing askance with that witful fire which flashed from his eyes and which seemed to pierce all bosoms, in presence of that Parliament which had so often given him orders standing at its bar as chief of police, in presence of that premier president, so superior to him, so haughty, so proud of his Duke of Maine, so mightily in hopes of the seals." After his speech, and the reading of the king's decree, the premier president was for attempting a remonstrance; D'Argenson mounted the step, approached the young king, and then, without taking any opinion, said, in a very loud voice, "The king desires to be obeyed, and obeyed at once." There was nothing further for it but to enregister the edict; all the decrees of the Parliament were quashed.

Some old servants of Louis XIV., friends and confidants of the Duke of Maine, alone appeared moved. The young king was laughing, and the crowd of spectators were amusing themselves with the scene, without any sensible interest in the court intrigues. The Duchess of Maine made her husband pay for his humble behavior at the council; "she was," says St. Simon, "at one

time motionless with grief, at another boiling with rage, and her poor husband wept daily like a calf at the biting reproaches and strange insults which he had incessantly to pocket in her fits of anger against him."

In the excess of her indignation and wrath, the Duchess of Maine determined not to confine herself to reproaches. She had passed her life in elegant entertainments, in sprightly and frivolous intellectual amusements; ever bent on diverting herself, she made up her mind to taste the pleasure of vengeance, and set on foot a conspiracy, as frivolous as her diversions. The object, however, was nothing less than to overthrow the Duke of Orleans, and to confer the regency on the King of Spain, Philip V., with a council and a lieutenant, who was to be the Duke of Maine. "When one has once acquired, no matter how, the rank of prince of the blood and the capability of succeeding to the throne," said the duchess, "one must turn the state upside down, and set fire to the four corners of the kingdom, rather than let them be wrested from one." The schemes for attaining this great result were various and confused. Philip V. had never admitted that his renunciation of the crown of France was seriously binding upon him; he had seen, by the precedent of the war of devolution, how a powerful sovereign may make sport of such acts; his Italian minister, Alberoni, an able and crafty man, who had set the crown of Spain upon the head of Elizabeth Farnese, and had continued to rule her, cautiously egged on his master into hostilities against France. They counted upon the Parliaments, taking example from that of Paris, on the whole of Brittany, in revolt at the prolongation of the tithe-tax, on all the

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