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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Alberoni indulged the feelings of the king his master


For

once, in a way, Alberoni indulged the feelings of the king his master, and, in spite of the good will felt by a part of the grandees towards France, Spain was, on the whole, with him; he no longer felt himself to be threatened, as he had been a few months before, when the king's illness had made him tremble for his greatness, and perhaps for his life. He kept the monarch shut up in his room, refusing entrance to even the superior officers of the palace. [_Memoires de St. Simon,_ t. xv.] "The Marquis of Villena, major-domo major, having presented himself there one afternoon, one of the valets inside half opened the door, and told him, with much embarrassment, that he was forbidden to let him in. 'You are insolent, sir,' replied the marquis; 'that cannot be.' He pushed; the door against the valet and went in. The marquis, though covered with glory, being very weak on his legs, thus advances with short steps, leaning on his little stick. The queen and the cardinal see him, and look at one another. The king was too ill to take notice of anything, and his curtains were drawn. The cardinal, seeing the marquis approach, went up to him, and represented to him that the king wished to be alone, and begged him to go away. 'That is not true,' said the marquis. 'I kept my eye upon you, and the king never said a word to you.' The cardinal, insisting, took him by the arm to make him go out; what with the heat of the moment, and what with the push, the marquis, being feeble, fell into
an arm-chair which happened to be by. Wroth at his fall, he raises his stick and brings it down with all his might, hammer and tongs, about the cardinal's ears, calling him a little rascal, a little hound, who deserved nothing short of the stirrup-leathers. When he did at last go out, the queen had looked on from her seat at this adventure all through, without moving or saying a word, and so had the few who were in the room, without daring to stir. The curious thing is, that the cardinal, mad as he was, but taken completely by surprise at the blows, did not defend himself, and thought of nothing but getting clear. The same evening the marquis was exiled to his estates, without ever wanting to return from them, until the fall of Alberoni." Alberoni has sometimes been compared to the great cardinals who had governed France. To say nothing of the terror with which Richelieu inspired the grandees, who detested him, the Prince of Coude would not have dared to touch Cardinal Mazarin with the tip of his cane, even when the latter "kissed his boots" in the courtyard of the castle at Havre.

Alberoni had persuaded his master that the French were merely awaiting the signal to rise in his favor; the most odious calumnies were everywhere circulating against the Regent; he did not generally show that he was at all disturbed or offended by them; however, when the poem of the Philippics by La Grange appeared, he desired to see it; the Duke of St. Simon took it to him. "'Read it to me,' said the Regent. 'That I will never do, Monseigneur,' said I. He then took it and read it quite low, standing up in the window of his little winter-closet, where we were. All at once I saw him change countenance, and turn towards me, tears in his eyes, and very near fainting. 'All,' said he to me, 'this is too bad, this horrid thing is too much for me.' He had lit upon the passage where the scoundrel had represented the Duke of Orleans purposing to poison the king, and all ready to commit his crime. I have never seen man so transfixed, so deeply moved, so overwhelmed by a calumny so enormous and so continuous. I had all the pains in the world to bring him round a little." King Louis XV., who had no love and scarcely any remembrance, preserved all his life some affection for the Regent, and sincere gratitude for the care which the latter had lavished upon him. The Duke of Orleans had never desired the crown for himself, and the attentions full of tender respect which he had shown the little king had made upon the child an impression which was never effaced.


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