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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Said the Duke of Noailles to the new cardinal


On the 16th of July, 1721, Dubois was at last elected Cardinal; it was stated that his elevation had cost eight millions of livres. The frivolous curiosity of the court was concerned with the countenance the new Eminence would make in his visits of ceremony, especially in that to Madame, his declared foe at all times. "He had nearly two months to prepare for it," says St. Simon, and it must be admitted that he had made good use of them. He got himself up for his part, and appeared before Madame with deep respect and embarassment. He prostrated himself, as she advanced to greet him, sat down in the middle of the circle, covered his head for a moment with his red hat, which he removed immediately, and made his compliments; he began with his own surprise at finding himself in such a position in presence of Madame, spoke of the baseness of his birth and his first employments; employed them with much cleverness and in very choice terms to extol so much the more the kindness, courage, and power of the Duke of Orleans, who from so low had raised him to where he found himself; gave Madame some delicate incense; in fine, dissolved in the most profound respect and gratitude, doing it so well that Madame herself could not help, when he was gone, praising his discourse and his countenance, at the same time adding that she was mad to see him where he was."

The bearing of the newly-elected was less modest at the council of regency; he got himself accompanied

thither by Cardinal Rohan; their rank gave the two ecclesiastics precedence. The Duke of Noailles, d'Aguesseau, and some other great lords refused to sit with Dubois. "This day, sir, will be famous in history," said the Duke of Noailles to the new cardinal; "it will not fail to be remarked therein that your entrance into the council caused it to be deserted by the grandees of the kingdom." Noailles was exiled, as well as d'Aguesseau.

The great lords had made a decided failure in government. Since 1718, the different councils had been abolished; defended by Abbe St. Pierre, under the grotesque title of Polysynodie, they had earned for the candid preacher of universal peace his exclusion from the French Academy, which was insisted upon by the remnants of the old court, whom he had mortally offended by styling Louis XIV.'s governmental system a viziership. The Regent had heaped favors upon the presidents and members of the councils, but he had placed Dubois at the head of foreign affairs and Le Blanc over the war department. "I do not inquire into the theory of councils," said the able Dubois to the Regent by the mouth of his confidant Chavigny; "it was, as you know, the object of worship to the shallow pates of the old court. Humiliated by their nonentity at the end of the last reign, they begot this system upon the reveries of M. de Cambrai. But I think of you, I think of your interests. The king will reach, his majority, the grandees of the kingdom approach the monarque by virtue of their birth; if to this privilege they unite that of being then at the head of affairs, there is reason to fear that they may surpass you in complaisance, in flattery, may represent you as a useless phantom, and establish themselves upon the ruin of you. Suppress, then, these councils, if you mean to continue indispensable, and haste to supersede the great lords, who would become your rivals, by means of simple secretaries of state, who, without standing or family, will perforce remain your creatures."


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