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and at times his mind wandered. In the morning,
Friday, April 29, Lemonnier and La Martiniere held
a consultation, and decided that his Majesty must be
bled. They asked that other doctors should be called
in, and Louis, prompted by Madame du Barry, named
Lorry and Bordeu, the physicians of the favourite and
d'Aiguillon, while, at Lemonnier's request, Lassonne,
the Dauphiness's physician, was also summoned.

The bleeding did not produce the effect hoped for;
the fever continued to increase, and there could no
longer be any doubt that the King was seriously ill.
The doctors who had been sent for arrived about noon,
and were followed into the sick-room by all his Maj-
esty's medical advisers physicians, surgeons, and
apothecaries and also by a number of people who had


the entree, and whom Madame du Barry and d'Aiguil-
lon had up till then contrived to exclude.

The King called upon each doctor in turn to come
and feel his pulse, described his symptoms, and de-
manded to know what was the nature of his illness ; a
point upon which none of the learned gentlemen were
able to satisfy him. They all looked exceedingly sol-
emn, conferred together in whispers, shook their heads
repeatedly, and, finally, decided that his Majesty must
be bled again in the course of the afternoon, and a
third time at night or the following morning, if the
second bleeding failed to give him relief.

This announcement alarmed the King. "I am then
seriously ill," he exclaimed. "A third bleeding will
leave me very weak. Can it not be avoided ?"

The Court was in a ferment of excitement when the
decision of the doctors became known, and the enemies
of the favourite and d'Aiguillon could not conceal their
elation. A third bleeding meant the Sacraments and,
with the Sacraments, confession and the solemn re-
nunciation by the King of his mistress, as had been
the case with Madame de Chateauroux at Metz, in
1744.* It is true that on that occasion, so soon as the
monarch recovered, Madame de Chateauroux was
taken back into favour; but it was deemed very im-
probable that, if Madame du Barry were once dis-
missed, Louis would have the courage to break his
word again. At sixty- four a man is less ready to incur
the wrath of Heaven than when in the prime of life.

On their side, the Du Barry party, alive to the
danger which threatened them, used every effort to
prevail upon the doctors to abandon the idea of a
third bleeding. They succeeded, but only in a measure,

"For a full account of Louis XV.'s illness at Metz, and the
dismissal of Madame de Chateauroux, see the author's " Madame
de Pompadour," pp. 11-19.


as the Faculty, to satisfy its conscience, made the
second bleeding unusually copious, and reduced the
wretched King to the last stage of prostration. Nev-
ertheless, the fever continued, and Bordeu went up to
the apartments of the favourite, who had retired from
the sick-room before the entry of the crowd of doctors
and courtiers at midday, and told her that he feared
the King was threatened with a long and dangerous

Towards five o'clock, Louis sent for his children
and kept them for half an hour round his bed, during
which time, however, he never once addressed them.
In the evening the Due d'Aumont wished to introduce
Madame du Barry, but the doctors and the grand offi-
cers of the Household opposed it energetically, and he
was compelled to give. way.

The Faculty was composed of fourteen persons six
physicians, five surgeons, and three apothecaries; but
the King seemed to derive comfort from their number,
and whenever he happened to observe that one of the
doctors had left the room, requested that he should be
brought back, "as if he imagined that, surrounded by
so many satellites, no harm could happen to his

That evening the sick man was moved from his
great State bed into a smaller one, for the sake of
convenience. All at once,, some one happening to ap-
proach him with a light, observed red specks upon his
forehead and cheeks. The doctors looked at one an-
other in amazement; not one among them appears to
have entertained the least suspicion that the King's
illness could be small-pox 1 , for Louis had had the dis-
ease already in 1728, and it was believed that he was
proof against further attacks. 7

7 Louis was commonly believed to have contracted the disease
from a young girl of the neighbourhood, with whom he had had


However, after they had recovered from their aston-
ishment, the doctors seemed much relieved to find that
all uncertainty was at an end, and assured the Royal
Family that there was no cause for alarm, citing in-
stances of persons of the King's age who had recov-
ered from the disease. The Dauphin, the Comte de
Provence, the Comte d'Artois, and their wives, on the
advice of the doctors, decided to keep away from the
sick-room; but Mesdames, although none of them had
had small-pox, declared that their place was by their
father's side, and that they intended to remain with
him ; a resolution which does them much honour. The
Court seemed to share the opinion of the Faculty that
the chances were greatly in favour of the King's re-
covery, and retired to rest, "convinced that it was an
affair of eight or nine days and of a little patience."

Bordeu, however, thought otherwise, and when the
Due de Liancourt reported to him the optimistic feeling
which prevailed, shook his head and remarked that
small-pox to a man of Louis's age and constitution was
a terrible disease.

The event justified his previsions. Next day, it be-
came evident that the disease was developing in its
most virulent form, and the doctors could not conceal
their apprehensions. After much discussion, it had
been decided not to inform the King of the nature of
his illness, and he was accordingly told that he was
suffering from a miliary fever. But, with his knowl-

a " passade" ' : " une petite vachere," according to the Abbe Bau-
deau; the daughter of the gardener of Louveciennes (Anec-
dotes) ; the daughter of Montvallier, Madame du Barry's steward
(Metra) ; "the once so buxom daughter of the gatekeeper"
(Carlyle), and so forth; for the shapes of the damsel are pro-
tean. There is, however, not a shred of evidence to support this
story, and we prefer to believe Voltaire, who says that there was
an epidemic of small-pox in the environs of Versailles, and the
King fell a victim to the scourge in the ordinary way.
8 Memoir 'es du Baron de Besenval, i. 300.


edge of diseases, of which he had all his life taken a
morbid pleasure in talking, the symptoms surprised
him. : 'Were it not that I have had the small-pox," he
exclaimed, "I should believe that I was about to
have it."

Mesdames passed the day in the sick-room or in one
of the adjoining cabinets, and assisted at Mass, which
was said at noon, on a portable altar placed before the
King's bed. They, with the Due de Noailles, the faith-
ful Prince de Soubise, and the banker valet-de-chambre
La Borde, were probably the only persons in the room
who cared for Louis for his own sake ; the rest, con-
sumed with hatred and jealousy of one another, thought
only of the political changes for which the administra-
tion of the Sacraments would be the signal. Decency,
of course, compelled them to dissimulate their feelings ;
and many of those who appeared most affected by the
condition of their sovereign were secretly rejoicing at
the prospect of the fulfilment of their hopes.

In Paris, where the affection of the people, so strik-
ingly manifested during Louis's illness at Metz, had
long since changed to hatred and contempt, there was
not even a pretence of sorrow. 9 Public prayers for
the King's recovery were, of course, ordered ; but the
churches and chapels were deserted. The shrine of
Sainte-Genevieve was solemnly opened; but hardly a
knee was bent before it. 10 If people were observed to

9 A striking instance of the steady decline of Louis XV.'s
popularity is afforded by comparing the number of Masses said
on his behalf at Notre Dame, at the expense of private indi-
viduals, during his three illnesses in 1744, 1757, an d *774- On
the first occasion, no less than 6000 were said ; on the second,
the number had fallen to 600; while in 1774 only three persons
were found willing to pay for a Mass ! Bingham's " Marriages
of the Bourbons," ii. 421.

10 After the death of Louis XV., the Abbe de Sainte-Genevieve
was rallied by some friends, who said that his saint had lost all
her power. He replied : " Well, Messieurs, what reproach have
you to address to her? Is he not dead?"


whisper anxiously together, if apprehension were re-
marked on any face, its cause was not the gravity of
their sovereign's condition, but lest Death should, after
all, be deprived of his prey. Louis le Bien-aime, as
he himself had once bitterly remarked, had become
Louis le Bien-hai, and all hearts waited impatiently
for the event which was to open that new regime on
which so many hopes were founded.

In the evening, La Borde, having on some pretext
contrived to get every one out of the room, brought in
Madame du Barry and conducted her to the King's
bedside; but Louis was in too much pain to show any
pleasure at the sight of his mistress, and, after re-
maining for a short while, she withdrew. 11

On the Sunday, May i, the King, who' had passed
a terrible night, was so weak that it was the general
impression that he could not survive more than a
couple of days, and the battle between the <f Barriens '
and "Anti-Barriens ' over the question of the Sacra-
ments began in earnest. By a singular inversion of the
usual order of things, it was the patrons of the philos-
ophers who cried out against the scandal of allowing
the King to remain longer in a state of sin, while the
devots declared that confession and absolution would
effectually destroy any chance of recovery his Majesty
might have, as everything depended on concealing his
true condition from him.

In the midst of this unseemly wrangle, the news ar-
rived that Christophe de Beaumont, the Archbishop of
Paris, had announced his intention of visiting the
King on the following day. No one doubted that the
object of the prelate's visit was to exhort his Majesty
to repentance and confession, and the Du Barry party,
in great alarm, held a council of war, which was at-

11 Memoires du Baron de Besenval (edit. Berville and Bar-
riere), i. 303.


tended by the favourite, d'Aiguillon, Richelieu, and his
son, the Due de Fronsac. After some discussion, it
was decided that, as it was impossible to keep the arch-
bishop away from the King, the only course to adopt
was to ensure that the Due d'Orleans, first prince of the
blood, should be in the room all the time; that the
visit should be one of courtesy only, and that no men-
tion should be made of the Sacraments. Madame
Adelaide, whom the doctors of the favourite's faction
had solemnly assured that the question of Eternity was
premature, and that it would be her father's death-
blow, joined the conspiracy.

At eleven o'clock the next morning, the archbishop,
in his violet robes, presented himself at the door of
the King's ante-chamber, where he was met by Riche-
lieu, who led him into the Cabinet du Conseil, made
him sit down by his side, and spoke to him "with
great vehemence and animated gestures."

Now, the archbishop was an honest and pious, if
narrow-minded man, who had suffered exile and per-
secution for the truth's sake, or rather for that of the
Bull Unigenitus. He deplored the irregularities of the
King, but he was well aware of the services which
Madame du Barry had rendered to the party of which
he was the ecclesiastical head by the overthrow of Choi-
seul, the elevation of d'Aiguillon, and the destruction
of the Parliaments. He had come to insist on the dis-
missal of the favourite, as a preliminary to confession
and the Sacraments, to the saving of the King's soul ;
but when Richelieu, with brutal frankness, pointed out
to him that the saving of the King's soul meant the
return of Choiseul and the old Parliament, the triumph,
in fact, of the enemies of the Church, the archbishop
began to wonder whether his Most Christian Majesty's
salvation was indeed worth so great a sacrifice.

While he hesitated "between his zeal and his con-


science," the Due d'Aumont came to announce that the
King awaited him. The prelate rose and made his way
into the sick-room, where the first object his eyes rested
upon was a lady perched on the royal bed. The lady
was, of course, Madame du Barry, who, however, fled
at his approach, leaving him alone with the King and
the Due d' Orleans, charged by Madame Adelaide to
take care that M. de Beaumont did not say anything
which might alarm her father.

The audience, as might be expected, had no result;
the archbishop remained a few minutes, condoling with
his Majesty on the unfortunate event which had tem-
porarily deprived his loving subjects of the joy of
seeing him amongst them, and then went back to Paris,
without saying a single word about confession; 13 while
the King, inferring from the prelate's avoidance of
this unpleasant subject, that the doctors could not con-
sider him in any danger, sent at once for Madame du
Barry, "wept with joy, and covered her hands with

The "Anti-Barriens," highly indignant at the weak-
ness of the archbishop, now fell back upon the Grand
Almoner, the Cardinal de la Roche-Aymon. Incited
by them, the Bishop of Carcassonne, an honest man,
who sincerely desired his sovereign's salvation, brand-
ishing his pectoral cross before the eyes of the cardinal,
summoned him, in the name of that cross, to do his
duty and propose the Sacraments to the King.

The Cardinal de la Roche-Aymon, who was an ex-
ceedingly supple and cautious ecclesiastic, felt himself
placed in a most embarrassing position. If he declined
to exhort the King to repentance, and Louis were to
die without having received absolution, he would be
ruined. On the other hand, if he did his duty, and the

12 The archbishop returned the next day, and again saw the
King, but whether he spoke of confession is uncertain.


King were to recover, his disgrace would be equally
certain. He, therefore, determined to steer a middle
course, and replied that, as the doctors were opposed
to anything which might tend to alarm the King, he
could not propose to administer the Sacraments openly,
but that he would avail himself of the first opportunity
of putting his Majesty in the right way. He then went
to visit the King, but conversed with him in so low
a tone that no one else could hear what was said. In
this way, the astute cardinal was able to give his own
version of what passed between Louis and himself.

That day a slight improvement was observed in the
royal patient's condition, in consequence of which a
number of courtiers who, in the belief that his Majesty
was doomed, had for the last day or two abstained
from visiting the favourite, hastened to atone for their
neglect. But during the night the disease took an
alarming turn, and the following morning the doctors,
who had hitherto issued relatively satisfactory reports,
published a bulletin announcing that the King had been
delirious. D'Aiguillon, in a violent passion, rushed
into the ante-chamber and began to upbraid the doctors
with their indiscretion in so loud a tone that Louis
sent to learn what was the matter. When the Minister
went to visit him soon afterwards, he inquired very
tenderly after Madame du Barry, and expressed a de-
sire to see her; and it was arranged that La Borde
should bring the countess to the sick-room in the

But before the time for the favourite's visit arrived,
an event of great importance had taken place : the
King had ascertained the disease from which he was
suffering. He had, it appeared, questioned La Mar-
tiniere, and the latter, disgusted with the conduct of
his colleagues, had confirmed his suspicions.

In an agony of terror, the conscience-stricken King


at once resolved to purchase absolution by the dis-
missal, or rather the apparent dismissal, of his mis-
tress ; and when, according to arrangement, La Borde
brought in the favourite, he called her to his bedside
and said: "Madame, I am very ill; I know what I
must do; I do not wish to have a repetition of the
scandal that took place at Metz. We must part. Go
to Rueil, to the Due d'Aiguillon's chateau; await my
orders there, and be assured that I shall always enter-
tain for you the most tender affection."

Madame du Barry, who had expected a very dif-
ferent reception, left the room dissolved in tears, con-
soling herself, however, with the reflection that Rueil
was but two leagues from Versailles, and that such a
very modified form of exile probably implied a speedy
recall in the event of the King's recovery.

At four o'clock the following afternoon, Tuesday,
May 5, a carriage stopped under the northern arcade
of the chateau. Madame du Barry entered it, ac-
companied by her sister-in-law, Mademoiselle "Chon,"
and the Duchesse d'Aiguillon, and departed from the
scene of her triumphs, which she was fated never to

There was, of course, great excitement at Court
when it became known that the favourite had left Ver-
sailles ; but the joy of the "Anti-Barriens" was some-
what marred by the knowledge that, if the King hap-
pened to change his mind, a courier and a pair of fast
horses could bring her back within an hour.

It was believed that the Sacraments would be ad-
ministered that same evening, but the enemies of the
favourite were doomed to disappointment. Towards
six o'clock, the King called La Borde and bade him
fetch Madame du Barry.

"There are several versions of Louis's farewell speech to
Madame du Barry; we have followed Besenval.


"Sire, she has gone," answered the valet-de-

"Whither has she gone?"

"To Rueil, Sire."

"Ah ! already !" And the sick man seemed distressed
at finding that he had been so quickly taken at his

Shortly afterwards he summoned d'Aiguillon, and
inquired if he had been to Rueil; all of w r hich showed
plainly that his thoughts were occupied far more by
his mistress than by his confessor; that the lady's de-
parture was merely a precautionary measure, and that
she would be recalled the moment the illness of her
royal lover took a decided turn for the better. 1 *

Later in the evening there was a disgraceful scene
in the ante-chamber. The cure of Versailles announced
his intention of entering the sick-room to exhort the
King to place himself in a state of grace without
further delay, upon which the Due de Fronsac threat-
ened to throw him out of the window if he dared even
to mention the word "confession" in his Majesty's
hearing. : 'If I am not killed, I shall return by the
door," replied the priest, "for it is my duty." How-
ever, the attitude of the duke was so threatening that
the cure eventually decided to remain silent.

There was no change in Louis' condition the follow-
ing day, but during the night of the 6th to 7th he had
a relapse, and ordered the Due de Duras to summon
his confessor, the Abbe Maudoux, an honest man, who
was also the directeur of Marie Antoinette. The duke,
a bitter enemy of d'Aiguillon, obeyed the order with
alacrity, and soon returned with the abbe, who re-
mained with the King a quarter of an hour.

When the confessor left, Louis declared his inten-

14 Memoires inedits du Due de Croy, cited by M. de Nolhac in
Marie-Antoinette Dauphine, p. 323.


tion of receiving- the Sacrament on the morrow. Then
he sent for d'Aiguillon, to whom he confided that the
abbe had refused to give him absolution so long as
Madame du Barry was anywhere in the neighbour-
hood; that he had, therefore, decided to send her to
Richelieu's chateau at Chinon in Touraine, and desired
that he would convey his commands to the countess.
D'Aiguillon, who, on the principle that while there is
life there is hope, was determined not to abandon the
struggle, assured the King that there must be some
mistake, and, instead of sending Madame du Barry to
Chinon, hurried off to the Cardinal de la Roche-Ay-
mon and the Abbe Maudoux, to endeavour to persuade
them to administer the Sacraments unconditionally.
He met, as might be expected, with a good deal of op-
position from the latter; but the cardinal was com-
placent enough, and, in the end, matters were settled as
the Minister desired.

At six o'clock the next morning, preceded by the
clergy of the parish and the chapel, surrounded by
bishops and followed by the Dauphin and his brothers,
the Princes and Princesses of the Blood, the grand
officers of the Crown, the Ministers and Secretaries of
State, and nearly the whole of the Court, all with
lighted tapers in their hands, the Holy Sacrament is
brought in solemn state to the apartments of the dying
King. The clergy, with Mesdames and the princes,
enter the royal bedchamber, the rest of the cortege re-
mains in the adjoining cabinets. The Cardinal de la
Roche- Aymon delivers a short exhortation to the King,
which is quite inaudible, and then administers the

But the ceremony is not yet over. As the cardinal
turns away, the Abbe Maudoux, "with anxious, acid-
ulent face,'' plucks him by the sleeve and whispers in
his ear ; upon which the prelate comes to the door, and


there repeats the formula of repentance drawn up by
the Archbishop of Paris, the bishops, and the con-
fessor :

"Messieurs, the King charges me to inform you
that he asks pardon of God for having offended Him
and for the scandal he has given his people; that if
God restores him to health, he will occupy himself with
the maintenance of religion and the welfare of his

Two voices break the silence which follows : one is
old Richelieu's, growling out some uncomplimentary
reference to the Grand Almoner, which Besenval, who
records the incident, is too modest to repeat ; the other
is that of the King, who has listened attentively to the
declaration of his penitence, and now murmurs : ''I
should have wished for sufficient strength to say it

From that moment the intrigues ceased; and all,
save those whose duties compelled them to remain, fled
from the sick-room, the infection from which was so
terrible that over fifty persons in the chateau are said
to have contracted the disease and ten to have died.
Hour by hour the King grew worse. On May 9, two
days after the first religious ceremony, the second,
the administration of Extreme Unction, took place,
and on the following afternoon, at a quarter-past
three, the Due de Bouillon, the Grand Chamberlain,
appeared at the door of the (Eil-de-Bceuf and made
the announcement which had not been heard for fifty-
nine years, and was not to be heard again until the
death of Louis XVIII. , half a century later:

"Messieurs, le Roi est mort. Vive le Roil"

The body of the King, which had been hastily en-
closed in two leaden coffins, remained in the chamber
Memoirs 9 Vol. 2


of death, guarded only by a few priests, until the eve-
ning of the 1 2th, when it was conveyed to Saint-
Denis, "the funeral resembling rather the removal of a
load one is anxious to get rid of than the last duties
rendered to a monarch." The coffin was placed in a
large carriage covered with a pall of black velvet, em-
bossed with gold ; another carriage contained the Dues
d'Aumont and d'Ayen; a third, the Grand Almoner
and the cure of Versailles. All three carriages were
those which the King had used to take him to the chase,
and it had not been deemed necessary to drape them,
according to custom, nor even to caparison the horses
in black. The cortege was very simple, consisting
merely of a score of mounted pages and fifty Gardes-
du-Corps. 15 The faithful Soubise also followed the
remains of the man from whom he had received so
many favours, and was the only genuine mourner

The funeral procession left Versailles, at a trot, at
half-past seven, and arrived at Saint-Denis soon after
eleven. Among his subjects all feeling of respect
and affection for the King had long ceased, and coarse
laughter and ribald jests greeted the cortege as it
passed by. In the streets of Versailles, the people
cried, "Ta'iaut! Ta'iant!" imitating the tone in which
the King had been accustomed to pronounce the word,

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