George Hooker Colton.

The American review : a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (Volume v.8) online

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Phihp IV., became the queen expectant of
the King of France. From this time until
the following spring, active prepaiations
were made for the royal marriage. At



490



Louis XIV. and his Court.



[Nov.,



the appointed time, the two courts met at
a small town upon the borders of the two
kingdoms, to witness the marriage cere-
mony, and seal the bond of amity between
the rival crowns.

It is not possible, within the bounds of
a single article, to dwell upon the lofty
etiquette and gorgeous ceremony of the
royal nuptials. Maria Theresa, now the
queen of France, possessed many qualities
of head and heart which rendered her
worthy of the throne she shared. Mild,
gentle, lovely, vmcontaminated by morals
such as she found in the new court to
which she came, and full of love to her
royal husband, she deserved the scriptural
honor of a virtuous woman, " that the
heart of her husband should fully trust in
her." Nor was she wanting in personal
attractions. " The Infanta," says Madame
de Motteville, " is short, but well made ;
we admired the extreme fairness of her
complexion ; her blue eyes appeared to us
to be fine, and charmed us by their soft-
ness and brilliancy ; we celebrated the
beauty of her mouth, and of her some-
what full and roseate lips. To speak the
truth, with more height and handsome
teeth, she would deserve to be estimated
as one of the most beautiful persons in
Europe."

The novelty of the ceremonies appeared
for a time to absorb the heart of Louis. Ele-
vated by the renown which now first filled
his soul with the love of kingly power ;
gratified by the splendor which accom-
panied the nuptial ceremonies ; and proud
of an alliance which shadowed forth the
future greatness of his reign ; Louis found
enough in the first possession of his royal
bride, to please his fancy and satisfy his
ambition. Anne of Austria, relieved of
her fears lest her son should tarnish the
lustre of his crown by an ignoble marriage,
rejoiced in the possession of a daughter
whose blood boasted as noble descent as
her own. Mazarin, fortunate beyond his
utmost hopes, in securing provinces to the
crown and peace to the nation, by the
consummation of the Spanish alliance, felt
himself more than ever securely seated in
power, and sure of favor from the king
and the kingdom.

In the midst of the plaudits of the peo-
ple, welcomed by every demonstration of
satisfaction and gladness, Louis, attended



by his courtiers, returned to Paris, and led
his blooming bride into the presence-room
of the palace. Beauty and wealth and
royal splendor united to do him honor.
As he passed arovmd the room, I'eceiving
the smiles of loveliness and the homage of
noble blood, he met Mary de Mancini,
compelled against her will, by the place
she occupied, to be present at the cere-
mony. As her name was mentioned, the
kino- bowed without one vestig-e of emo-
tion, or sign of recognition, and with a
condescending indifference, that told a
thousand fold more than words could do,
passed on to salute other ladies who stood
around the queen.

" On the morrow, pale, cold and tearless,
Mademoiselle de Mancini drove to Vincennes,
where she announced to the cardinal that she
was ready to give her hand to the Prince Col-
lonne, provided ihe marriage took place imme-
diately, and he wrote without an hour's delay,
to ask the consent of the king. Mazarin, de-
lighted tluis to have carried his point after
having despaired of success, at once promised
to comply with lier wishes ; and Mary returned
to Paris, as self-sustained as she had left it,
although perhaps not without a latent hope
that her resolution would awaken some return
of atfection in the breast of Louis — induce some
remonstrance — elicit some token of remem-
brance.

" Again, however, she was the victim of her
own hope. Tiie royal consent was granted
without a single comment, accompanied by
valualjle presents which she dared not decline ;
and Mary walked to the altar as she would
have walked to the scaffold, carrying with her
an annual dower of a hundred thousand livres,
and perjuring herself by vows which she could
not fulfil.

" Her after career we dare not trace. Suf-
fice it, that the ardent and enthusiastic spirit
which would, had she been fated to happiness,
have made her memory a triumph for her sex,
embittered by falsehood, wrong and treachery,
involved her in errors over which both charity
and propriety oblige us to draw a veil ; and if
all Europe rang with the enormity of her ex-
cesses, much of their origin may surely be
traced to tiiose who, after wringing her heart,
trampled it in the dust beneath their feet."

During the year 1661, within less than
a twelvemonth after the marriage of the
king, Mazarin the prime minister died. He
was a man of pre-eminent abihties, of
sagacious forecast, of great learning, and
unequalled in his age for his wonderful
powers of diplomacy. History, however.



1848.]



Louis XIV. and his Court.



491



has branded him as an ambitious states-
man and a dishonest man. The fact that,
during a period of thirtj'-one j'cars, from
1630, when he first emerged from obscurity,
to 16G1, at his death, be had amassed a
fortune of more tban two hundred millions
of livres, and that only through his control
over the public treasury, is of no mean
significancy. In fact the extent of his
wealth was never known, Colbert, his
secretary, having revealed to the king
shortly after his death places of conceal-
ment of more than fifteen millions of ready
money, which he had not specified in his
will.

The death of Mazarin became the turn-
ing point in the character of Louis XIV.
Instead of opening new avenues to dis-
tinction for the ministers and chief men of
the realm, it abolished the office which he
had held, and made each subordinate re-
sponsible to the king alone. To the presi-
dent of the ecclesiastical assembly, Avho
immediately waited upon his Majesty to
ascertain to whom he should address him-
self in future upon questions of public
business, Louis promptly replied, " To my-
self." He was now twenty-three years of
age, apparently absorbed in the pleasures
of court life, earnest in his pursuit of the
baubles w^hich surround a throne, careless
of the good of his people, and the slave of
his own passions ; and yet from that day
forth, the handsomest man in Europe,
who had grown up in perfect ignorance,
with a heart full of romantic gallantry,
devoted eight hours of each day sedu-
lously to business and the acquisition of
information. In the outset, the courtiers
doubted, the ministers gravely shook their
heads, the beauties of the court, who had
long known where the weakness of Louis
lay, laughed scornfully, and the chefs de
bureaux, plodding over long columns of
fiofures, looked mcredulous and smiled ;
but the event proved them all to be mis-
taken. The first age of Louis the Four-
teenth had passed, and the boy had be-
come a monarch and a man.

But thouo'h the habits of Louis were
changed, it would be a great error to sup-
pose that his character had changed with
them. That neither the morals of the
age nor his own principles demanded.
Regular and even strict in the perform-
ance of his duties, punctilious to a nicety



in demanding in matters of business all
that from others which he required from
himself ; devout, methodical, accurate ;
accessible to his ministers, and, at stated
times, to the people ; master of his own
household and the realm ; seeking for
puiity in the administration of justice,
lioncsty in the control of the public purse,
and diligence in the discharge of civil
business ; the love of romantic gallantry,
that grand characteristic of the age, had
never lost its power over his heart. For
a short space only had the quiet charms
of Maria Theresa satisfied the monarch.
The opera, the soiree, and the evening
ballets, where bevies of fair women vied
in displaying charms to which homage
was never w-anting, better pleased him
after the laborious cares of the day, than
the quiet boudoir of the queen. The man-
ners of the time sanctioned the liasons
which obtained among the gentry and
nobility all over the nation, and there
were few among the loveliest of the court
ladies, who would not have preferred a
splendid and scarce doubtful reputation of
intriofue with the handsome kinff, than
whom none better knew the avenues to a
woman's heart, to the ridicule with which
prudery and even virtue was assailed wher-
ever it was met. The taste of Louis was
faultless. The reputation of his court for
elegance and grace was unrivalled through-
out Europe. He loved with enthusiasm,
and expressed his sentiments of affection
with tenderness and dignity. And much
as we may deprecate the morals of an age,
which exalted seduction to a virtue, and
branded chastity as a crime, we must not
forget, that the culture of these very sen-
timents of gallantry did more to soften the
manners, elevate the opinions, purify the
affections, and refine the taste of a gross
and barbarous age, than all other causes
combined. It may have been the small
seed of good, vivifying and growing in the
midst of thorns of evil ; it may have been
— when is it not ? — the overruling provi-
dence of Omnipotence making the wick-
edness of man conducive to general weal —

" From seeming evil still educing good."

But it is none the less true, that, looking
no farther than second causes, beyond
which human sagacity goes not, the gal-



492



Louis XIV. and his Court.



[Nov.,



lantry of the court of Louis XIV. produced
the civilization of Western Europe.

The four years succeeding the death of
Mazarin were among the most splendid of
the reign of Louis XIV. France, at peace
with all the world, started into the growth
of healthy and vigorous youth. Her peo-
ple, rising from the crushing influence of
domestic dissensions and foreign broils,
spread themselves over her wasted fields,
enriching the meadows with joyous labor,
and p'laddeninof the hill-sides with crardens
and vineyards. Her handicraft sped in
the workshop and at the loom. The hum
of earr^st toil came up from the artisans
of her hamlets and cities. Her products
found remuneration in the most distant
lands, and the ships of her commerce be-
gan again to return laden from foreign
seas. The throne seemed for once to rest
upon the affections of the people, and eve-
rything around it united to give it splen-
dor. The civil wars had called forth men
of talent and energy, who made the na-
tional glory and the splendor of the king,
the object of their exertions. Statesmen
and generals, savans and ecclesiastics gave
vigor and taste to the public mind, and
added new lustre to the throne.

During these years, prompt and regular
at hia routine of business, with which
nothing was allowed to interfere, the young-
king devoted his leisure wholly to a career
of pleasure. The queen, naturally taci-
turn, and averse to the frivolities of a court
life, resolutely refused to become a sharer
in his amusements. Rigid in the perform-
ance of her religious duties, between which
and the queen-mother she divided most of
her waking hours, and more retiring in her
habits than was consistent with her rank,
the loss of the illusion Avhich rendered the
period of her marriage a proud and tri-
umphant dream, was mourned with bitter
tears. Though the difference in their
habits had undoubtedly produced the in-
creasing coldness of the king, yet the truth
that he had never loved her, and that his
heart was constantly bestowed upon other
and less deserving objects, began to break
upon her mind, and to embitter her ex-
istence. The birth of a dauphin did in-
deed for a time reclaim the king fi-om his
mad pursuit of pleasure, and turn his af-
fections towards herself ; but the interval
was brief as it was bright, and ever after-



wards, for a period of more than twenty
years, until the time of her death, the
proud daughter of Philip IV., forsaken by
her husband, pined in solitude over the
delusive dreams and broken vows of her
unhappy marriage.

Chief among those upon whom the af-
fections of Louis were lavished during the
early years of his married life, and who,
in fact, despite her unfortunate career, pos-
sessed many virtues of character and life,
loving the king Avith her whole heart, and
faithful to his interests in every trial, was
Louise Frangoise de la Baume de Blanc,
daughter of Marquis de la Valiere, a man
of rank and reputation. A young and in-
experienced girl, introduced to the palace
as maid of honor, and regarding the king
almost as an object of idolatry, there can
be no wonder that she yielded to the temp-
tations which surrounded her. The atten-
tions of the king seem to have been, in the
outset, nothing more than the gratification
of a passing fancy for one, whom he
chanced to have overheard expressing her-
self to her companions in terms of exag-
gerated eulogium upon his merits ; but,
as the acquaintance increased, finding
within her deep resources of love and feel-
ing, for which he sought in vain among the
more splendid beauties of the court, his af-
fections were awakened, until at last he
lavished upon her the whole wealth of his
heart.

For more than five years. Mademoiselle
de Valiere was the favorite of the king.
This unusual constancy is to be attributed
doubtless more to the opposition which
the Uason excited among the members of
the royal household, than to any other
cause.

Miss Pardee relates the following inci-
dent, which we copy in illustration of this :

" Shortly after this event, the unfortunate Ija
Valiere sacrificed her reputation to her ardent
passion for the king ; but lier remorse was so
great, that, far from parading her disgrace, as
most of those around her would have done, she
was so prostrated by shame, as to absent her-
self, so far as her court duties would permit,
from all society ; and the agony of her repent-
ance was so violent as to occasion much em-
barrassment to her royal lo\ner ; while the re-
proaches of the queen- mother, and the deep
melancholy of Maria Theresa, added to his
annoyance. The young queen had reluctantly
admitted the conviction of this new misfortune



1848.]



Louis XIV. and his Cotcrl.



493



but two incidents soon occurred which robhed
her even of tlie equivocal happiness of doubt.

" A young valet-de-chambre of the king,
named Valloc, had invented a species of inter-
lude, consisting of dialogues, interspersed with
dances, which obtained great favor at court,
where they were enacted by all the principal

i)ersons of the royal circle, including Louis
limself. On a particular occasion one of these
interludes, of which the king had prompted the
Bubject, was represented in the queen's apart-
ments ; and the boldness with which it shad-
owed forth the love of the monarch for La
Valiere was so great that, long ere its conclu-
eion, a score of wiiispers had identified the
characters, and she lierself retired to her cham-
ber, trembling at its probable effect upon those
whom it was so well calculated to wound.

" A few days only passed over ere she was
Bnmmoned to the presence of the queen-mother,
and the circumstance w^as so unusual that
Louise hesitated whether she should obey with-
out previously consulting tlie king. A second
messenger, however, urging her to hasten, left
her no alternative ; and with a sinking heart
she was ushered into the apartment of Anne of
Austria, whom she found closeted with Ma-
dame. There was an expression of triumph
playing about the lip of the princess, which at
once convinced Mademoiselle de la Valiere that
she was summoned on no indifferent subject,
and one glance at the clouded brow of the
queen-mother confirmed her in her conviction.
Her fears had not outrun the truth. Coldly,
haughtily, and peremptorily, Anne of Austria
declared her dismission from the court, adding
that she was immediately to return whence she
came, and that Madame de Choisy would con-
duct her to herhouse.

" The unhappy girl staggered back to her
room almost unconsciously. A full conviction
of the disgrace she had brought upon lierself
bowed her to the dust. She was about to be
ignominiously driven ^from the court, to meet
her motlier as a guilty and condemned wretch,
to whom the whole world was now only one wide
desolation ; while, at intervals, the idea that she
was to be forever separated from the king dried
her tears with the scorching fever of despair.
No one intruded upon her solitude throughout
tlie day, and she gave a free course to the an-
guish by which she was oppressed ; but with
the twilight Louis entered her apartment, and,
finding her exhausted with weeping, insisted on
learning the cause of her distress. Anxious
tliough she was that he should know all, she
shrank from exciting the storm which she was
well aware must follow, and she persisted in
withholding her secret, despite the entreaties, re-
proaches, and even threats of the king, who,
eventually, displeased by her pertinacity, rose
from her side, and without uttering another
word, left the room.

" As he disappeared. Mademoiselle de Valiere



sank back tearless and hopeless. She was
now, indeed, alone ; for even he for whom she
had suffered had abandoned her, and liours
went by before she again ventured to lift her
head. After a time, however, she remembered
that a compact had once been made between
herself and her royal lover, that in the event of
any misunderstanding, a night should not be
suffered to elapse without a reconciliation. Her
heart again beat more freely. He would not
fail her ; he could not forget his promise ; he
would write to tell her that his anger against
her was at an end. And so she waited and watcii-
ed, and counted every hour as it was proclaimed
by the belfry of the palace ; but she waited and
watched in vain ; and when, at length, after this
long and weary night, the daylight streamed
through the silken curtains of her chamber, she
threw herself upon her knees, and praying that
God would not cast away the victim who was
thus rejected by the world, she hastened with
a burning cheek and tearless eye to collect a
few necessary articles of clothing, and throw-
ing on her veil and mantle, rushed down a pri-
vate stair-case and escaped into the street. In
this distracted state of mind, she pursued her
way to Chaillot, and reached the convent of the
sisters of St. Mary, where she was detained a
considerable time in the parlor ; but at length
the grating was opened, and a portress appear-
ed, who, on her request to be admitted to the
abbess, informed her that all the community
were at their devotions, and could not be seen
by any one.

" It was in vain that the poor fugitive en-
treated, and asserted her intention of taking the
vows ; she could e.xtort no other answer ; and
the portress withdrew, leaving her sitting upon
a wooden bench, desolate and hearr.-struck. For
two hours she remained motionless, with her
eyes fixed upon the grating, but it continued
closed ; even the dreary refuge of this poor and
obscure convent was denied to her — even the
house of religion had barred its doors against
her. She could bear up no longer ; from the
previous morning she had not tasted food ; and
the fatigue of body and anguish of mind she
had undergone, combined with this unaccus-
tomed fast, had exliausted her slight remains of
strength ; a sullen torpor gradually overcame
her faculties, and eventually she fell upon the
paved floor, cold and insensible.

" Early in the morning the king was inform-
ed of the disappearance of Mademoiselle de Va-
liere ; and he had no sooner learned the fact
than he hastened to the Tuilleries to question
Madame, who either was, or affected to be, ut-
terly ignorant of her fate. Nor was he more
fortunate in his inquiries of the queen-mother,
who, while she declared her inability to give
him the information that he sought, reproached
him with his want of self-command, remarking
that he had no mastery over himself.

" ' It may be so,' he exclaimed, goaded by



494



Louis XIV. and his Court.



[Nov.,



her words ; ' but if I cannot control myself, I
shall at least know how to control those who
ontrane me.'

" As yet he had obtained no clue to the re-
treat of his mistress; but Louis was not to be
discouraged, and he adopted such efficient
measures as, ere lonjr, led him to a knowledge
of the convent to which the unhappy fugitive
had been seen to bend her steps. In another
instant he was on horseback, and followed by a
single page, gallopped oif in the direction of
Chaillot, where, as no warning had been given
of his approach, tlie grating remained inhospi-
tably closed, and he found the wretched girl still
stretclied upon the pavement.

" It was long ere Louise was aware whose
tears were falling fast upon her face, and
whose hands had'clasped her own. After a
time, however, she recognized the king, and at
length was enabled to confide to him the secret
of her flight, and to implore him to leave her
free to fultil the resolution she had formed ; but
Louis was deaf to her entreaties, and finally
succeeded in inducing her to pardon the past,
and to return. It was not without compunc-
tion that she suffered herself to be persuaded,
but her passion for the king ultimately triumph-
ed over her scruples ; and the page was dis-
patched for a carriage.

" It was with considerable difficulty that the
king prevailed on Madame to restore Valiere
to her place in the household ; but he was firm
in his determination ; and eventually, although
with a reluctance wliich she made no attempt
to disguise, she consented to his wishes ; when,
regardless of the manner of the concession,
Louis thanked her for her compliance, and
hastened to inform the anxious maid of honor
of the success of his suit."

Through many troubles, Mademoiselle
de Valiere thenceforth remained an inmate
of the palace. Publicly recognized after
this as the favorite of the king ; created at
length a duchess ; her children legitima-
tized by an act of parliament and taken
under the special superintendence of the
king ; and with princely wealth lavished
upon her family for many years, La Va-
liere found no cause of complaint against
anything beyond her own heart. But
such a state of things was destined to
change. Long before he would permit
her to leave the palace, she became con-
vinced that her power over the affections
of her royal lover was fast diminishing,
and that another and happier beauty was
profiting by the change. After years of
neglect and suff"ering, the hour of depart-
ure at length came. She bade farewell to
Louis, after the performance of grand



mass, her countenance pale as death, her
gait unsteady and infirm from her violent
emotion.

" The weakness, however, was not conta-
gions. The eye of Louis was dry and his voice
firm as he bade her farewell, and expressed a
hope that she would be happy in her cloister ;
after which he stood composedly to see her en-
ter her carriage, with a tottering step, and drive
away. Not a sign of emotion escaped him, and
the equipage had no sooner disappeared, than
he entered into conversation with those about
his person, as calmly as though he had never
loved the unhappy woman, whose life was to
be thenceforward one of trial and privation."

In the year 1665, the peace under which
France had so eminently flourished, was
broken by the death of Philip IV. Upon
the news of his decease, Louis, by reviving
the obsolete law of deiwltition, as it was
called, laid claim to the Spanish Nether-
lands. After protracted and tedious ne-
gotiations, in the course of which it be-
came evident that Louis, was determined
to accomplish by force what he could not
obtain by diplomacy, a triple alliance was
formed between England, Sweden, and
Holland, to oppose the aggressions of
France. In the campaigns which followed,
the forces of Louis, led by the most dis-
tinguished generals of the time, Avere uni-
formly successful, and the achievements of
the army through a succession of years
shed a brilliant lustre upon the military
renown of the kingdom. At the treaty of
Aix-la-Chapelle, the policy of Colbert, his
chief minister after the death of Mazarin,
achieved much for France. Compelled to
abandon his intentions at the commence-
nient of the war, which, unjust as they
were, the wily statesman urged as good
and sufficient to demand compensation for
their withdrawal, Louis succeeded in re-
taining in his possession all the places
which he had taken in the Netherlands.



Online LibraryGeorge Hooker ColtonThe American review : a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (Volume v.8) → online text (page 94 of 124)