Louis XIV - John S. C. Abbott

Death in the Palace


The festivities to which we have alluded in the last chapter, the expenses of which were sufficient almost to exhaust the revenues of a kingdom, lasted seven days. The prizes awarded to the victors in the lists were very costly and magnificent. The renowned dramatist Moliére accompanied the court on this occasion, to contribute to its amusement by the exhibition of his mirth-moving farces on the stage.

It was during these scenes that Louis XIV. selected Versailles as the site of the stupendous pile of buildings which was to eclipse all other palaces that had ever been reared on this globe. This magnificent structure, alike the monument of munificence in its appointments, and of infamy in the distress it imposed upon the overtaxed people, eventually swallowed up the sum of one hundred and sixty-six million of francs—thirty-three million dollars. It is to be remembered that at that day money was far more valuable, and far more difficult of acquisition than at the present time.

For seven years an army of workmen was employed on the palace, parks, and gardens. No expense was spared to carry into effect the king's designs. The park and gardens were laid out by the celebrated landscape gardener Lenotre. The plans for the palace were furnished by the distinguished architect Mansard. Over thirty thousand soldiers were called from their garrisons to assist the swarms of ordinary workmen in digging the vast excavations and constructing the immense terraces. "It is estimated that not less than forty millions sterling—two hundred million dollars—were exhausted upon the laying out of these vast domains and the erection of this superb chateau. Such was the extraordinary vigor with which the works were pushed, that in 1685, hardly twenty-five years after its commencement, the whole was in readiness to receive its royal occupants. Here the royal family and the court resided until the Revolution of 1789. Every part of the interior as well as the exterior was ornamented with the works of the most eminent masters of the times."

The most magnificent room in the palace, called the grand gallery of Louis XIV., was two hundred and forty-two feet long, thirty-five feet broad, and forty-three feet high. The splendors of the court of Louis XIV. may be inferred from the fact that this vast apartment was daily crowded with courtiers. The characteristic vanity of the king is conspicuously developed in that he instituted an order of nobility as a reward for personal services. The one great and only privilege of its members was that they were permitted to wear a blue coat embroidered with gold and silver precisely like that worn by the king, and to follow the king in his hunting-parties and drives.

The position of Mademoiselle de la Valliére was a very painful one. Though the austere queen-mother was so ill in her chamber that she could do but little to harass Louise, Madame Henrietta, who had been constrained to receive her as one of her maids of honor, did every thing in her power to keep her in a state of perpetual anxiety. The courtiers generally were hostile to her, from the partiality with which she was openly regarded by the king. The poor child was alone and desolate in the court, and scarcely knew an hour of joy.

[Illustration] from Louis XIV by John S. C. Abbott


The queen-mother was rapidly sinking, devoured by a malady which not only caused her extreme bodily suffering, but, from its loathsome character, affected her sensitive nature with the most acute mental pangs. She retired to the convent of Val de Grace, where, with ever-increasing devotion as death drew near, she consecrated herself to works of piety and prayer.

This vast structure is situated upon the left bank of the Seine, and is now in the limits of the city of Paris.

"Anne of Austria had enjoyed the rare privilege, so seldom accorded to her sex, of growing old without in any very eminent degree losing her personal advantages. Her hands and arms, which had always been singularly beautiful, remained smooth and round, and delicately white. Not a wrinkle marred the dignity of her noble forehead. Her eyes, which were remarkably fine, lost neither their brightness nor their expression; and yet for years she had been suffering physical pangs only the more poignant from the resolution with which she concealed them."

The queen-mother had made the most heroic exertions to assume in public the appearance of health and gayety. None but her physicians were made acquainted with the nature of her malady.

The young queen, Maria Theresa, who appears to have been an amiable, pensive woman, endowed with many quiet virtues, was devotedly attached to the queen-mother. She clung to her and followed her, while virtually abandoned by her royal spouse. She had no heart for those courtly festivities where she saw others with higher fascinations command the admiration and devotion of her husband. The queen was taken very ill with the measles. It speaks well for Louis XIV., and should be recorded to his honor, that he devoted himself to his sick wife, by day and by night, with the most unremitting attention. The disease was malignant in its form, and the king himself was soon stricken down by it. For several days it was feared that he would not live. As he began to recover, he was removed to the palace of St. Cloud. The annexed view represents the rear of the palace. The magnificent saloons in front open upon the city, and from the elevated site of the palace command a splendid view of the region for many leagues around.

[Illustration] from Louis XIV by John S. C. Abbott


This truly splendid chateau, but a few miles from the Tuileries, had been assigned to Madame Henrietta. Here she resided with her court, and here the king again found himself under the same roof with Mademoiselle de la Valliére.

In the mean time the health of the queen-mother rapidly declined. She was fast sinking into the arms of death. The young queen, Maria Theresa, having recovered, was unwilling to leave her suffering mother-in-law even for an hour.

"The sufferings of Anne of Austria," writes Miss Pardoe, "must indeed have been extreme, when, superadded to the physical agony of which she was so long the victim, her peculiar fastidiousness of scent and touch are remembered. Throughout the whole of her illness she had adopted every measure to conceal, even from herself, the effects of her infirmity. She constantly held in her hand a large fan of Spanish leather, and saturated her linen with the most powerful perfumes. Her sense of contact was so acute and irritable that it was with the utmost difficulty that cambric could be found sufficiently fine for her use. Upon one occasion, when Cardinal Mazarin was jesting with her upon this defect, he told her 'that if she were damned, her eternal punishment would be sleeping in linen sheets.'"

Louis XIV. was too much engrossed with his private pleasures, his buildings, and rapidly multiplying diplomatic intrigues to pay much attention to his dying mother. It was not pleasant to him to contemplate the scenes of suffering in a sick-chamber. The gloom which was gathering around Anne of Austria was somewhat deepened by the intelligence she received of the death of her brother, Philip IV. of Spain. It was another admonition to her that she too must die. Though Philip IV. was a reserved and stately man, allowing himself in but few expressions of tenderness toward his family, Maria Theresa, in her isolation, wept bitterly over her father's death.

The ties of relationship are feeble in courts. Louis XIV. was growing increasingly ambitious of enlarging his domains and aggrandizing his power. The news of the death of the King of Spain was but a source of exultation to him. Though scrupulous in the discharge of the ceremonies of the Church, he was a stranger to any high sense of integrity or honor. In the treaty upon his marriage with Maria Theresa he had agreed to resign every claim to any portion of the Spanish kingdom. The death of Philip IV. left Spain in the hands of a feeble woman. Louis XIV., upon the plea that the five hundred thousand crowns promised as the dower of his wife had not yet been paid, resolved immediately to seize upon the provinces of Flanders and Franche-Comté, which then belonged to the Spanish crown.

Notwithstanding the queen-mother had become so exhausted, from long-continued and agonizing bodily sufferings, that she could not be moved from one bed to another without fainting, still the festivities of the palace continued unintermitted. The moans of the dying queen in the darkened chamber could not be heard amidst the music and the revelry of the Louvre and the Tuileries. On the 5th of January, 1666, Philip, the Duke of Orleans, gave a magnificent ball in the palace of St. Cloud. Louis XIV. was then in deep mourning for his father-in-law. Decorously he wore the mourning dress of violet-colored velvet adopted by the court; he, however, took care so effectually to cover his mourning garments with glittering and costly gems that the color of the material could not be discerned.

While her children were engaged in these revels, the queen-mother passed a sleepless night of terrible suffering. It was apparent to her that her dying hour was near at hand. She was informed by her physician that her life could be continued but a few hours longer. She called for her confessor, and requested every one else to leave the room. What sins she confessed of heart or life are known only to him and to God. Having obtained such absolution as the priest could give, she prepared to partake of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Her son Philip, with Madame his wife, were admitted to her chamber, where the king soon joined them. The Archbishop of Auch, accompanied by quite a retinue of ecclesiastics, approached with the holy viaticum. The most scrupulous regard was paid to all the punctilious ceremonials of courtly etiquette.

When the bishop was about to administer the oil of extreme unction, the dying queen requested an attendant very carefully to raise the borders of her cap, lest the oil should touch them, and give them an unpleasant odor. It was one of the most melancholy and impressive of earthly scenes. The king, young, sensitive, and easily overcome by momentary emotion, could not refrain from seeing in that sad spectacle, as in a mirror, his own inevitable lot. He fainted entirely away, and was borne senseless from the apartment.

On the morning of the 7th or 8th of January, 1666, Anne of Austria died. Her will was immediately brought from the cabinet and read. She bequeathed her heart  to the convent of Val de Grace. It was taken from her body, cased in a costly urn, and conveyed to the convent in a carriage. The Archbishop of Auch seated himself beside the senseless relic, while the Duchess of Montpensier occupied another seat in the coach.

At 7 o'clock of the next evening the remains of the queen left the Louvre for the royal sepulchre at St. Denis. It was a gloomy winter's night. Many torches illumined the path of the procession, exhibiting to the thousands of spectators the solemn pageant of the burial. The ecclesiastics and the monks, in their gorgeous or picturesque robes, the royal sarcophagus, the sombre light of the torches, the royal coaches in funereal drapery, and the wailing requiems, now swelling upon the breeze, and now dying away, blending with the voices of tolling bells, presented one of the most mournful and instructive of earthly spectacles. The queen had passed to that tribunal where no aristocratic privileges are recognized, and where all earthly wealth and rank are disregarded.

The funeral services were prolonged and imposing. It was not until two hours after midnight that the remains were deposited in the vaults of the venerable abbey, the oldest Christian church in France.

[Illustration] from Louis XIV by John S. C. Abbott


The death of the queen-mother does not seem to have produced much effect upon the conduct of her ambitious and pleasure-loving son. He had cruelly betrayed the young and guileless Mademoiselle de la Valliére, and she never ceased to weep over her sad fate. The king, however, conferred upon her the duchy of Vaujours, and the title of Madame. Her beauty began to fade. Younger and happier faces attracted the king. He became more and more arrogant and domineering.

There was at that time rising into notice in this voluptuous court a young lady who was not only magnificently beautiful, but extremely brilliant in her intellectual endowments. She was of illustrious birth, and was lady of the palace to the young queen. She deliberately fixed her affections upon Louis, and resolved to employ all the arts of personal loveliness and the fascinations of wit to win his exclusive favor. She had given her hand, constrained by her family, to the young Marquis de Montespan. She had, however, stated at the time that with her hand she did not give her heart.

The young marquis seems to have been a very worthy man. Disgusted with the folly and the dissipation of the court, he was anxious to withdraw with his beautiful bride to his ample estates in Provence. She, however, entirely devoted to pleasure, and absorbed in her ambitious designs, refused to accompany him, pleading the duty she owed her royal mistress. He went alone. Madame de Montespan was thus relieved of the embarrassment of his presence.

Louis XIV., while apparently immersed in frivolous and guilty pleasures, was developing very considerable ability as a sovereign. It daily became more clearly manifest that he was not a man of pleasure merely; that he had an imperial will, and that he was endowed with unusual administrative energies.

The Duke de Mazarin, a relative and rich heir of the deceased cardinal, and who assumed an austere and cynical character, ventured on one occasion, when displeased with some act of the king, to approach him in the presence of several persons and say,

"Sire, Saint Genevieve appeared to me last night. She is much offended by the conduct of your majesty, and has foretold to me that if you do not reform your morals the greatest misfortunes will fall upon your kingdom."

The whole circle stood aghast at his effrontery. But the king, without exhibiting the slightest emotion, in slow and measured accents, replied,

"And I, Monsieur de Mazarin, have recently had several visions, by which I have been warned that the late cardinal, your uncle, plundered my people, and that it is time to make his heirs disgorge the booty. Remember this, and be persuaded that the very next time you permit yourself to offer me unsolicited advice, I shall act upon the mysterious information I have received."

The duke attempted no reply. Such developments of character effectually warded off all approaches of familiarity.

The fugitive and needy Charles II. had sold to Louis XIV., for about one million of dollars, the important commercial town of Dunkirk, in French Flanders. The king, well aware of the importance of the position, had employed thirty thousand men to fortify the place.

Louis now sent an army of thirty-five thousand men, in the highest state of military discipline, to seize the coveted Spanish provinces of Flanders and Franche-Comté. At the same time, he sent a reserve of eight thousand troops to Dunkirk. The widowed Queen of Spain, acting as regent for her infant son, could make no effectual resistance. She had but eight thousand troops, in small garrisons, scattered over those provinces. The march of the French army was but as a holiday excursion. Fortress after fortress fell into their hands. Soon the banners of Louis floated proudly over the whole territory. The king displayed his sagacity by granting promotion for services rendered rather than to birth. This inspired the army with great ardor. He also boldly entered the trenches under fire, and exposed himself to the most imminent peril.

The opposite side of the king's character is displayed in the fact that he accompanied the camp with all the ladies of his court, eighteen in number. In each captured city, the king and court, in magnificent banqueting-halls and gorgeous saloons, indulged in the gayest revelry. Amidst the turmoil of the camp, these haughty men and high-born dames surrounded themselves with the magnificence of the Louvre and the Tuileries, and were served with every delicacy from gold and silver plate.

The king, by the advice of his renowned minister of war, Marshal Louvois, placed strong garrisons in the cities he had captured, while the celebrated engineer, M. Vauban, was intrusted with enlarging and strengthening the fortifications. From this victorious campaign Louis XIV. returned to Paris, receiving adulation from the courtiers as if he were more than mortal.

Madame de Montespan accompanied the court on this military pleasure tour. She availed herself of every opportunity to attract the attention of the king and ingratiate herself in his favor. She so far succeeded in exciting the jealousy of the queen against Madame de la Valliére, upon whom she was at the same time lavishing her most tender caresses, that her majesty treated the sensitive and desponding favorite with such rudeness that, with a crushed spirit, she decided to leave the court and retire to Versailles, there to await the conclusion of the campaign. The king, however, interposed to prevent her departure, while at the same time he was daily treating her with more marked neglect, as he turned his attention to the rival, now rapidly gaining the ascendency. The unfortunate Louise was doomed to daily martyrdom. She could not be blind to the fact that the king's love was fast waning. Conscience tortured her, and she wept bitterly. Before her there was opened only the vista of weary years of neglect and remorse.

But the Marchioness of Montespan was mingling for herself a cup of bitterness which she, in her turn, was to drain to its dregs. Her noble husband wrote most imploring letters, beseeching her to return to him with their infant child.

"Come," he wrote in one of his letters, "and take a near view, my dear Athenaés, of these stupendous Pyrenees, whose every ravine is a landscape, and every valley an Eden. To all these beauties yours alone is wanting. You will be here like Diana, the divinity of these noble forests."

The excuses which the marchioness offered did by no means satisfy her husband. His heart was wounded and his suspicions aroused. At last he was apprised of her manifest endeavors to attract the attention of the king. He wrote severely; informed her of the extent of his knowledge. He threatened to expose her conduct to her own family, and to shut her up in a convent. At the same time, he commanded her to send to him, by the messenger who bore his letter, their little son, that he might not be contaminated by association with so unworthy a mother.

It was too late. The marchioness was involved in such guilty relations with the king that she could not easily be extricated. Still she was much alarmed by the angry letter of her husband. The king perceived her anxiety, and inquired the cause. She placed the letter in his hands. He read it, changing color as he read. He then coolly remarked,

"Our position is a difficult one. It requires much precaution. I will, however, take care that no violence shall be offered you. You had better, however, send him your son. The child is useless here, and perhaps inconvenient. The marquis, deprived of the child, may be driven to acts of severity."

A mother's love was strong in the bosom of the marchioness. She wept aloud, and declared that she would sooner die than part with her son. Her husband soon after came to Paris. He addressed the king in a very firm and reproachful letter, and for three months made earnest applications to the pope for a divorce. But the pope, afraid of offending Louis XIV., turned a deaf ear to his supplications. It was in vain for a noble, however exalted his rank, to contend against the king.

The injured marquis, finding all his efforts vain, returned wifeless and childless to his chateau. Announcing that to him his wife was dead, he assumed the deepest mourning, draped his house and the liveries of his servants in crape, and ordered a funeral service to take place in the parish church. A numerous concourse attended, and all the sad ceremonies of burial were solemnized.

The king was greatly annoyed. The scandal, which spread throughout the kingdom, placed him in a very unenviable position. The marquis would probably have passed the rest of his life in one of the oubliettes of the Bastile had he not escaped from France. Madame de Montespan, in her wonderfully frank Memoirs, records all these facts without any apparent consciousness of the infamy to which they consign her memory. She even claims the merit of protecting her injured husband from the dungeon, saying,

"Not being naturally of a bad disposition, I never would allow of his being sent to the Bastile."

There were continual antagonisms arising between Madame de la Valliére and Madame de Montespan. They were both ladies of honor in the household of the queen, who, silent and sad, and ever seeking retirement, endeavored to close her eyes to the guilty scenes transpiring around her. Sin invariably brings sorrow. The king, supremely selfish as he was, must have been a stranger to any peace of mind. He professed full faith in Christianity. Even lost spirits may believe and tremble. The precepts of Jesus were often faithfully proclaimed from the pulpit in his hearing. Remorse must have frequently tortured his soul.

From these domestic tribulations he sought relief in the vigorous prosecution of his plans for national aggrandizement. He plunged into diplomatic intrigues, marshaled armies, built ships, multiplied and enlarged his sea-ports, established colonies, reared magnificent edifices, encouraged letters, and with great sagacity pushed all enterprises which could add to the glory and power of France.

The king had never been on good terms with his brother Philip. Louis was arrogant and domineering. Philip was jealous, and not disposed obsequiously to bow the knee to his imperious brother. The king was unrelenting in the exactions of etiquette. There were three seats used in the presence of royalty: the arm-chair, for members of the royal family; the folded chair, something like a camp-stool, for the highest of the nobility; and the bench, for other dignitaries who were honored with a residence at court. Philip demanded of his brother that his wife, Henrietta, the daughter of Charles I. of England, and the sister of Louis XIII., being of royal blood, should be allowed the privilege of taking an arm-chair in the saloons of the queen. The king made the following remarkable reply:

"That can not be permitted. I beg of you not to persist in such a request. It was not I who established these distinctions. They existed long before you and I were born. It is for your interest that the dignity of the crown should neither be weakened or encroached upon. If from Duke of Orleans you should one day become King of France, I know you well enough to believe that this is a point on which you would be inexorable.

"In the presence of God, you and I are two beings precisely similar to our fellow-men; but in the eyes of men we appear as something extraordinary, superior, greater, and more perfect than others. The day on which the people cast off this respect and this voluntary veneration, by which alone monarchy is upheld, they will see us only their equals, suffering from the same evils, and subject to the same weaknesses as themselves. This once accomplished, all illusion will be over. The laws, no longer sustained by a controlling power, will become black lines upon white paper. Your chair without arms and my arm-chair will be simply two pieces of furniture of equal importance."

To these forcible remarks, indicating deep reflection, the Duke of Orleans, a nobleman rioting in boundless wealth, and enjoying amazing feudal privileges, could make no reply. The coronet of the noble and the crown of the absolute king would both fall to the ground so soon as the masses of the people should escape from the thrall of ignorance and deception. Philip left his brother silenced, yet exasperated. A petty warfare was carried on between them, by which they daily became more alienated from each other.

The king, elated by his easy conquest of Flanders, resolved to seize upon Holland, and then proceed to annex to France the whole of the Low Countries. The Dutch, a maritime people, though powerful at sea, had but a feeble land force. Holland was in alliance with England. The first object of Louis was to dissolve this alliance.

There were two influences, money and beauty, which were omnipotent with the contemptible Charles II. Henrietta, the wife of Philip, was sent as embassadress to the court of her brother. The whole French court escorted her to the coast. The pomp displayed on this occasion surpassed any thing which had heretofore been witnessed in France. The escort consisted of thirty thousand men in the van and the rear of the royal cortége. The most beautiful women of the court accompanied the queen. Maria Theresa, the queen, and Henrietta, occupied the same coach. The ladies of their households followed in their carriages.

The king's two favorites—Madame de la Valliére, whose beauty and power were on the wane, and Madame de Montespan, who was then in the zenith of her triumph—were often invited by the king to take a seat in the royal carriage by the side of the queen and Madame. The most beautiful woman then in the French court was Louise Renée, subsequently known in English annals as the Duchess of Portsmouth. She was to accompany her royal mistress to the court of Charles II., and had received secret instructions from the king in reference to the influence she was to exert. Louise Renée was to be the bribe and the motive power to control the king.

Brilliant as was this royal cortége, the journey, to its prominent actors, was a very sad one. The queen, pliant and submissive as she usually was, could not refrain from some expressions of bitterness in being forced to such intimate companionship with her rivals in the king's favor. There were also constant heart-burnings and bickerings, which etiquette could not restrain, between Philip and his spouse Henrietta. Madame  was going to London as the confidential messenger of the king, and she refused to divulge to her husband the purpose of her visit. Louis XIV. was embarrassed by three ladies, each of whom claimed his exclusive attention, and each of whom was angry if he smiled upon either of the others. In such a party there could be no happiness.

As this gorgeous procession, crowding leagues of the road, swept along, few of the amazed peasants who gazed upon the glittering spectacle could have suspected the misery which was gnawing at the heart of these high-born men and proud dames. Upon arriving at the coast, Henrietta, with her magnificent suite, embarked for England. The negotiation was perfectly successful. The fascinating Louise Renée immediately made the entire conquest of the king. Her consent to remain a member of his court, and the offer of several millions of money to Charles II., secured his assent to whatever the French king desired. It is said that he the more readily abandoned his alliance with Holland, since he hated the Protestants there, whose religion so severely condemned his worthless character and wretched life. A treaty of alliance was speedily drawn up between Charles II. and Louis XIV.

His Britannic majesty then, with a splendid retinue, accompanied his sister Henrietta to the coast, where she embarked for Calais. The French court met her there with all honors. The return to Paris was slow. At every important town the court tarried for a season of festivities. Henrietta, or Madame, as the French invariably entitled her, established her court at St. Cloud. Her husband, Monsieur, was very much irritated against her. Neither of them took any pains to conceal from others their alienation.

Madame was in the ripeness of her rare beauty, and enjoyed great influence in the court. The poor queen, Maria Theresa, was but a cipher. She was heart-crushed, and devoted herself to the education of her children, and to the society of a few Spanish ladies whom she had assembled around her. The king, grateful for the services which Henrietta had rendered him in England, and alike fascinated by her loveliness and her vivacity, was lavishing upon her his constant and most marked attentions, not a little to the chagrin of her irritated and jealous husband.

On the 27th of June, 1669, Henrietta rose at an early hour, and, after some conversation with Madame de Lafayette, to whom she declared she was in admirable health, she attended mass, and then went to the room of her daughter, Mademoiselle d'Orleans. She was in glowing spirits, and enlivened the whole company by her vivacious conversation. After calling for a glass of succory water, which she drank, she dined. The party then repaired to the saloon of Monsieur. He was sitting for his portrait. Henrietta, reclining upon a lounge, apparently fell into a doze. Her friends were struck with the haggard and deathly expression which her countenance suddenly assumed, when she sprang up with cries of agony. All were greatly alarmed. Her husband appeared as much so as the rest. She called for another draught of succory water. It was brought to her in an enameled cup from which she was accustomed to drink.

She took the cup in one hand, and then, pressing her hand to her side in a spasm of pain, exclaimed, "I can scarcely breathe. Take me away—take me away! I can support myself no longer." With much difficulty she was led to her chamber by her terrified attendants. There she threw herself upon her bed in convulsions of agony, crying out that she was dying, and praying that her confessor might immediately be sent for. Three physicians were speedily in attendance. Her husband entered her chamber and kneeled at her bedside. She threw her arms around his neck, exclaiming,

"Alas! you have long ceased to love me; but you are unjust, for I have never wronged you." Suddenly she raised herself upon her elbow, and said to those weeping around her, "I have been poisoned by the succory water which I have drank. Probably there has been some mistake. I am sure, however, that I have been poisoned. Unless you wish to see me die, you must immediately administer some antidote."

Her husband did not seem at all agitated by this statement, but directed that some of the succory water should be given to a dog to ascertain its effects. Madame Desbordes, the first femme de chambre, who had prepared the beverage, declared that the experiment should be made upon herself. She immediately poured out a glass, and drank it.

Various antidotes for poisons were administered. They created the most deadly sickness, without changing the symptoms or alleviating the pain. It soon became evident that the princess was dying. The livid complexion, glassy eyes, and shrunken nose and lips, showed that some agent of terrific power was consuming her life. A chill perspiration oozed from her forehead, her pulse was imperceptible, and her extremities icy cold.

The king soon arrived, accompanied by the queen. Louis XIV. was greatly affected by the changed appearance and manifestly dying condition of Henrietta. He sat upon one side of the bed and Monsieur upon the other, both weeping bitterly. The agony of the princess was dreadful. In most imploring tones she begged that something might be done to mitigate her sufferings. The attendant physicians announced that she was dying. Extreme unction was administered, the crucifix fell from her hand, a convulsive shuddering shook her frame, and Henrietta was dead.

"Only nine hours previously, Henrietta of England had been full of life, and loveliness, and hope, the idol of a court, and the centre of the most brilliant circle in Europe. And now, as the tearful priest arose from his knees, the costly curtains of embroidered velvet were drawn around a cold, pale, motionless, and livid corpse."

A post-mortem examination revealed the presence of poison so virulent in its action that a portion of the stomach was destroyed. Dreadful suspicion rested upon her husband. The king, in a state of intense agitation, summoned his brother to his presence, and demanded that he should confess his share in the murder. Monsieur clasped in his hand the insignia of the Holy Ghost, which he wore about his neck, and took the most solemn oath that he was both directly and indirectly innocent of the death of his wife. Still the circumstantial evidence was so strong against him that he could not escape the terrible suspicion.

Notwithstanding the absolute proof that the death of the princess was caused by poison, still an official statement was soon made out, addressed to the British court, and widely promulgated, in which it was declared that the princess died of a malignant attack of bilious fever. Several physicians were bribed to sign this declaration.

Notwithstanding this statement, the king made vigorous exertions to discover the perpetrators of the crime. The following facts were soon brought to light. The king, some time before, much displeased with the Chevalier de Lorraine, a favorite and adviser of Monsieur, angrily arrested him, and imprisoned him in the Chateau d'If, a strong and renowned fortress on Marguerite Island, opposite Cannes. Here he was treated with great rigor. He was not allowed to correspond, or even to speak with any persons but those on duty within the fortress. Monsieur  was exceedingly irritated by this despotic act. He ventured loudly to upbraid his brother, and bitterly accused Madame  of having caused the arrest of his bosom friend, the chevalier.

Circumstances directed the very strong suspicions of the king to M. Pernon, controller of the household of the princess, as being implicated in the murder. The king ordered him to be secretly arrested, and brought by a back staircase to the royal cabinet. Every attendant was dismissed, and his majesty remained alone with the prisoner. Fixing his eyes sternly upon the countenance of M. Pernon, Louis said, "If you reveal every circumstance relative to the death of Madame, I promise you full pardon. If you are guilty of the slightest concealment or prevarication, your life shall be the forfeit."

The controller then confessed that the Chevalier de Lorraine had, through the hands of a country gentleman, M. Morel, who was not at all conscious of the nature of the commission he was fulfilling, sent the poison to two confederates at St. Cloud. This package was delivered to the Marquis d'Effiat and Count de Beuvron, intimate friends of the chevalier, and who had no hope that he would be permitted to return to Paris so long as Madame  lived. The Marquis d'Effiat contrived to enter the closet of the princess, and rubbed the poison on the inside of the enameled cup from which Henrietta was invariably accustomed to drink her favorite beverage.

The king listened intently to this statement, pressed his forehead with his hand, and then inquired, in tones which indicated that he was almost afraid to put the question, "And Monsieur—was he aware of this foul plot?"

"No, sire," was the prompt reply. "Monsieur  can not keep a secret; we did not venture to confide in him."

Louis appeared much relieved. After a moment's pause, he asked, with evident anxiety, "Will you swear to this?"

"On my soul, sire," was the reply.

The king asked no more. Summoning an officer of the household, he said, "Conduct M. Pernon to the gate of the palace, and set him at liberty."

Such events were so common in the courts of feudal despotism in those days of crime, that this atrocious murder seems to have produced but a momentary impression. Poor Henrietta was soon forgotten. The tides of gayety and fashion ebbed and flowed as ever through the saloons of the royal palaces. No one was punished. It would hardly have been decorous for the king to hang men for the murder of the princess, when he had solemnly announced that she had died of a bilious fever. The Chevalier de Lorraine was ere long recalled to court. There he lived in unbridled profligacy, enjoying an annual income of one hundred thousand crowns, till death summoned him to a tribunal where neither wealth nor rank can purchase exemption from crime.

Henrietta, who was but twenty-six years of age at the time of her death, left two daughters, but no son. Monsieur  soon dried his tears. He sought a new marriage with his rich, renowned cousin, the Duchess of Montpensier. But she declined his offered hand. With inconceivable caprice, she was fixing her affections upon a worthless adventurer, a miserable coxcomb, the Duke de Lauzun, who was then disgracing by his presence the court of the Louvre. This singular freak, an additional evidence that there is no accounting for the vagaries of love, astonished all the courts of Europe. Monsieur  then turned to the Princess Charlotte Elizabeth of Bavaria. The alliance was one dictated by state policy. Monsieur  reluctantly assented to it under the moral compulsion of the king. The advent of this most eccentric of women at the French court created general astonishment and almost consternation. She despised etiquette, and dressed in the most outré  fashion, while she displayed energies of mind and sharpness of tongue which brought all in awe of her. The following is the portrait which this princess, eighteen years of age, has drawn of herself:

"I was born in Heidelberg in 1652. I must necessarily be ugly, for I have no features, small eyes, a short, thick nose, and long, flat lips. Such a combination as this can not produce a physiognomy. I have heavy hanging cheeks and a large face, and nevertheless am short and thick. To sum up all, I am an ugly little object. If I had not a good heart, I should not be bearable any where. To ascertain if my eyes have any expression, it would be necessary to examine them with a microscope. There could not probably be found on earth hands more hideous than mine. The king has often remarked it to me, and made me laugh heartily. Not being able with any conscience to flatter myself that I possessed any thing good looking, I have made up my mind to laugh at my own ugliness. I have found the plan very successful, and frequently discover plenty to laugh at."

Notwithstanding the princess was ready to speak of herself in these terms of ridicule, she was by no means disposed to grant the same privilege to others. She was a woman of keen observation, and was ever ready to resent any offense with the most sarcastic retaliation. She perceived very clearly the sensation which her presence, and the manners which she had very deliberately chosen to adopt, had excited. Madame de Fienne was one of the most brilliant wits of the court. She ventured to make herself and others merry over the oddities of the newly-arrived Duchess of Orleans, in whose court both herself and her husband were pensioners. The duchess took her by the hand, led her aside, and, riveting upon her her unquailing eye, said, in slow and emphatic tones,

"Madame, you are very amiable and very witty. You possess a style of conversation which is endured by the king and by Monsieur  because they are accustomed to it; but I, who am only a recent arrival at the court, am less familiar with its spirit. I forewarn you that I become incensed when I am made a subject of ridicule. For this reason, I was anxious to give you a slight warning. If you spare me, we shall get on very well together; but if, on the contrary, you treat me as you do others, I shall say nothing to yourself, but I shall complain to your husband, and if he does not correct you, I shall dismiss him."

The hint was sufficient. Neither Madame de Fienne nor any other lady of the court ventured after this to utter a word of witticism on the subject of the Duchess of Orleans.