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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Madame de Chateauroux had just arrived at Lille


He had, however, hesitated a long while before he started. There was a shortness of money. For all his having been head of the council of finance, Noailles had not been able to rid himself of ideas of arbitrary power. "When the late king, your great-grandfather, considered any outlay necessary," he wrote to Louis XV., "the funds had to be found, because it was his will. The case in question is one in which your Majesty ought to speak as master, and lay down the law to your ministers. Your comptroller-general ought, for the future, to be obliged to furnish the needful funds without daring to ask the reasons for which they are demanded of him, and still less to decide upon them. It was thus that the late king behaved towards M. Colbert and all who succeeded him in that office; he would never have done anything great in the whole course of his reign, if he had behaved otherwise." It was the king's common sense which replied to this counsel, "We are still paying all those debts that the late king incurred for extraordinary occasions, fifty millions a year and more, which we must begin by paying off first of all." Later on, he adds, gayly, "As for me, I can do without any equipage, and, if needful, the shoulder of mutton of the lieutenants of infantry will do perfectly well for me." "There is nothing talked off here but the doings of the king, who is in extraordinary spirits," writes the advocate Barbier; "he has visited the places near Valenciennes, the magazines, the hospitals; he has tasted the broth of the sick, and the soldiers' bread. The ambassador of Holland came, before his departure, to propose a truce in order to put us off yet longer. The king, when he was presented, merely said, 'I know what you are going to say to me, and what it is all about. I will give you my answer in Flanders.' This answer is a proud one, and fit for a king of France."

[Illustration: Louis XV. and the Ambassador of Holland----151]

The hopes of the nation were aroused. "Have we, then, a king?" said M. d'Argenson. Credit was given to the Duchess of Chateauroux, Louis XV.'s new favorite, for having excited this warlike ardor in the king. Ypres and Menin had already surrendered after a few days' open trenches; siege had just been laid to Furnes. Marshal Noailles had proposed to move up the king's household troops in order to make an impression upon the enemy. "If they must needs be marched up," replied Louis XV., "I do not wish to separate from my household: _verbum sap_."

[Illustration: YPRES----151]

The news which arrived from the army of Italy was equally encouraging; the Prince of Conde, seconded by Chevert, had forced the passage of the Alps. "There will come some occasion when we shall do as well as the French have done," wrote Count Campo-Santo, who, under Don Philip, commanded the Spanish detachment; "it is impossible to do better."

Madame de Chateauroux had just arrived at Lille; there were already complaints in the army of the frequent absence of the king on his visits to her, when alarming news came to cause forgetfulness of court intrigues and dissatisfaction; the Austrians had effected the passage of the Rhine by surprise near Philipsburg; Elsass was invaded. Marshal Coigny, who was under orders to defend it, had been enticed in the direction of Worms, by false moves on the part of Prince Charles of Lorraine, and had found great difficulty in recrossing the frontier. "Here we are on the eve of a great crisis," writes Louis XV. on the 7th of July. It was at once decided that the king must move on Elsass to defend his threatened provinces. The King of Prussia promised to enter Bohemia immediately with twenty thousand men, as the diversion was sure to be useful to France. Louis XV. had already arrived at Metz, and Marshal Noailles pushed forward in order to unite all the corps. On the 8th of August the king awoke in pain, prostrated by a violent headache; a few days later, all France was in consternation; the king was said to have been given over.


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