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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

And complains bitterly of Marshal Noailles


"The

king's danger was noised abroad throughout Paris in the middle of the night," writes Voltaire [_Siecle de Louis XV.,_ p. 103]: "everybody gets up, runs about, in confusion, not knowing whither to go. The churches open at dead of night; nobody takes any more note of time, bed-time, or day-time, or meal-time. Paris was beside itself; all the houses of officials were besieged by a continual crowd; knots collected, at all the cross-roads. The people cried, 'If he should die, it will be for having marched to our aid.' People accosted one another, questioned one another in the churches, without being the least acquainted. There were many churches where the priest who pronounced the prayer for the king's health interrupted the intoning with his tears, and the people responded with nothing but sobs and cries. The courier, who, on the 19th, brought to Paris the news of his convalescence, was embraced and almost stifled by the people; they kissed his horse, they escorted him in triumph. All the streets resounded with a shout of joy. 'The king is well!' When the monarch was told of the unparalleled transports of joy which had succeeded those of despair, he was affected to tears, and, raising himself up in a thrill of emotion which gave him strength, 'Ah!' he exclaimed, 'how sweet it is to be so loved! What have I done to deserve it?'"

What had he done, indeed! And what was he destined to do? France had just experienced the last gush of that

monarchical passion and fidelity which had so long distinguished her, and which were at last used up and worn out through the faults of the princes as well as through the blindness and errors of the nation itself.

Confronted with death, the king had once more felt the religious terrors which were constantly intermingled with the irregularity of his life; he had sent for the queen, and had dismissed the Duchess of Chateauroux. On recovering his health, he found himself threatened by new perils, aggravated by his illness and by the troubled state into which it had thrown the public mind. After having ravaged and wasted Elsass, without Marshals Coigny and Noailles having been able to prevent it, Prince Charles had, without being harassed, struck again into the road towards Bohemia, which was being threatened by the King of Prussia. "This prince," wrote Marshal Belle-Isle on the 13th of September, "has written a very strong letter to the king, complaining of the quiet way in which Prince Charles was allowed to cross the Rhine; he attributes it all to his Majesty's illness, and complains bitterly of Marshal Noailles." And, on the 25th, to Count Clermont, "Here we are, decided at last; the king is to start on Tuesday the 27th for Lundville, and on the 5th of October will be at Strasbourg. Nobody knows as yet any further than that, and it is a question whether he will go to Fribourg or not. The ministers are off back to Paris. Marshal Noailles, who has sent for his equipage hither, asked whether he should attend his Majesty, who replied, 'As you please,' rather curtly. Your Highness cannot have a doubt about his doing so, after such a gracious permission."

Louis XV. went to the siege of Fribourg, which was a long and a difficult one. He returned to Paris on the 13th of November, to the great joy of the people. A few days later, Marshal Belle-Isle, whilst passing through Hanover in the character of negotiator, was arrested by order of George II., and carried to England a prisoner of war, in defiance of the law of nations and the protests of France. The moment was not propitious for obtaining the release of a marshal of France and an able general. The Emperor Charles VII., who but lately returned to his hereditary dominions, and recovered possession of his capital, after fifteen months of Austrian occupation, died suddenly on the 20th of January, 1745, at forty-seven years of age. The face of affairs changed all at once; the honor of France was no longer concerned in the struggle; the Grand-duke of Tuscany had no longer any competitor for the empire; the eldest son of Charles VII. was only seventeen; the Queen of Hungary was disposed for peace. "The English ministry, which laid down the law for all, because it laid down the money, and which had in its pay, all at one time, the Queen of Hungary, the King of Poland, and the King of Sardinia, considered that there was everything to lose by a treaty with France, and everything to gain by arms. War continued, because it had commenced." [Voltaire, _Siecle de Louis XV_.]


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