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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

When Queen Mary Leckzinska arrived


[Illustration:

Mary Leczinska----121]

The proposals of Russia were rejected. "The Princess of Muscovy," M. de Morville had lately said, "is the daughter of a low-born mother, and has been brought up amidst a still barbarous people." Every great alliance appeared impossible; the duke and Madame de Prie were looking out for a queen who would belong to them, and would secure them the king's heart. Their choice fell upon Mary Leckzinska, a good, gentle, simple creature, without wit or beauty, twenty-two years old, and living upon the alms of France with her parents, exiles and refugees at an old commandery of the Templars at Weissenburg. Before this King Stanislaus had conceived the idea of marrying his daughter to Count d'Estrees; the marriage had failed through the Regent's refusal to make the young lord a duke and peer. The distress of Stanislaus, his constant begging letters to the court of France, were warrant for the modest submissiveness of the princess. "Madame de Prie has engaged a queen, as I might engage a valet to-morrow," writes Marquis d'Argenson;--it is a pity."

When the first overtures from the duke arrived at Weissenburg, King Stanislaus entered the room where his wife and daughter were at work, and, "Fall we on our knees, and thank God!" he said. "My dear father," exclaimed the princess, "can you be recalled to the throne of Poland?" "God has done us a more astounding grace," replied Stanislaus: "you are

Queen of France!"

"Never shall I forget the horror of the calamities we were enduring in France, when Queen Mary Leckzinska arrived," says M. d'Argenson. "A continuance of rain had caused famine, and it was much aggravated by the bad government under the duke. That government, whatever may be said of it, was even more hurtful through bad judgment than from interested views, which had not so much to do with it as was said. There were very costly measures taken to import foreign corn; but that only augmented the alarm, and, consequently, the dearness.

"Fancy the unparalleled misery of the country-places! It was just the time when everybody was thinking of harvests and ingatherings of all sorts of things, which it had not been possible to get in for the continual rains; the poor farmer was watching for a dry moment to get them in; meanwhile all the district was beaten with many a scourge. The peasants had been sent off to prepare the roads by which the queen was to pass, and they were only the worse for it, insomuch that Her Majesty was often within a thought of drowning; they pulled her from her carriage by the strong arm, as best they might. In several stopping-places she and her suite were swimming in water which spread everywhere, and that in spite of the unparalleled pains that had been taken by a tyrannical ministry."

It was under such sad auspices that Mary Leckzinska arrived at Versailles. Fleury had made no objection to the marriage. Louis XV. accepted it, just as he had allowed the breaking-off of his union with the Infanta and that of France with Spain. For a while the duke had hopes of reaping all the fruit of the unequal marriage he had just concluded for the King of France. The queen was devoted to him; he enlisted her in an intrigue against Fleury. The king was engaged with his old preceptor; the queen sent for him; he did not return. Fleury waited a long while. The duke and Paris-Duverney had been found with the queen; they had papers before them; the king had set to work with them. When he went back, at length, to his closet, Louis XV. found the bishop no longer there; search was made for him; he was no longer in the palace.


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