It is natural enough that history should be mixed with myth, to make it interesting to the populace. But it is uttery unnatural that history or myth should not be interesting to the populace. — G. K. Chesterton

Louis XIV - John S. C. Abbott




The War in Holland


1670-1679


Madame de Montespan was now the reigning favorite. The conscience-stricken king could not endure to think of death. He studiedly excluded from observation every thing which could remind him of that doom of mortals. All the badges of mourning were speedily laid aside, and efforts were made to banish from the court the memory of the young and beautiful Princess Henrietta, whose poisoned body was mouldering to dust in the tomb.

The king had a childish fondness for brilliant gems. In his cabinet he had a massive and costly secretary of elaborately carved rosewood. Upon its shelves he had arrayed the crown jewels, which he often handled and examined with the same delight with which a miser counts his gold.

Mademoiselle de Montpensier, in her interesting Memoirs, relates the following anecdote, which throws interesting light upon the character of the king at this time. It will be remembered that Louis XIV. was born in one of the palaces at St. Germain, about fifteen miles from Paris. The magnificent terrace on the left bank of the winding Seine commands perhaps as enchanting a view as can be found any where in this world. The domes and towers of Paris appear far away in the north. The wide, luxuriant valley of the Seine, studded with villages and imposing castles, lies spread out in beautiful panorama before the eye. The king had expended between one and two millions of dollars in embellishing the royal residences here. But as the conscience of the king became more sensitive, and repeated deaths forced upon him the conviction that he too must eventually die, St. Germain not only lost all its charms, but became a place obnoxious to him. From the terrace there could be distinctly seen, a few leagues to the east, the tower and spire of St. Denis, the burial-place of the kings of France. To Louis it suddenly became as torturing a sight as to have had his coffin ostentatiously displayed in his banqueting-hall.

When Anne of Austria was lying on her bed of suffering, the king was one day pacing alone the terrace of St. Germain. Dark clouds were drifting through the sky. One of these clouds seemed to gather over the towers of St. Denis. To the excited imagination of the king, the vapor wreathed itself into the form of a hearse, surmounted by the arms of Austria. In a few days the king followed the remains of his mother to the dark vaults of this their last resting-place. Just before the death of the hapless Henrietta, the same gloomy towers appeared to the king in a dream enveloped in flames, and in the midst of the fire there was a skeleton holding in his hand a lady's rich jewelry. But a few days after this the king was constrained to follow the remains of the beautiful Henrietta to this sepulchre. God seems to have sent warning upon warning upon this wicked king. Absorbed in ambitious plans and guilty passions, Louis had but little time or thought to give to his neglected wife or her children. In the same year his two daughters died, and with all the pageantry of royal woe they were also entombed at St. Denis.

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


It is not strange that, under these circumstances, the king, to whom the Gospel of Christ was often faithfully preached, and who was living in the most gross violation of the principles of the religion of Jesus, should have recoiled from a view of those towers, which were ever a reminder to him of death and the grave. He could no longer endure the palace at St. Germain. The magnificent panorama of the city, the winding Seine, the flowery meadows, the forest, the villages, and the battlemented chateaux lost all their charms, since the towers of St. Denis would resistlessly arrest his eye, forcing upon his soul reflections from which he instinctively recoiled. He therefore abandoned St. Germain entirely, and determined that the palace he was constructing at Versailles should be so magnificent as to throw every other abode of royalty into the shade.

Madame de la Valliére was daily becoming more wretched. Fully conscious of her sin and shame, deserted by the king, supplanted by a new favorite, and still passionately attached to her royal betrayer, she could not restrain that grief which rapidly marred her beauty. The waning of her charms, and the reproaches of her silent woe, increasingly repelled the king from seeking her society. One day Louis entered the apartment of Louise, and found her weeping bitterly. In cold, reproachful tones, he demanded the cause of her uncontrollable grief. The poor victim, upon the impulse of the moment, gave vent to all the gushing anguish of her soul—her sense of guilt in the sight of God—her misery in view of her ignominious position, and her brokenness of heart in the consciousness that she had lost the love of one for whom she had periled her very soul.

The king listened impatiently, and then haughtily replied, "Let there be an end to this. I love you, and you know it. But I am not to be constrained." He reproached her for her obstinacy in refusing the friendship of her rival, Madame de Montespan, and added the cutting words, "You have needed, as well as Madame de Montespan, the forbearance and countenance of your sex."

Poor Louise was utterly crushed. She had long been thinking of retiring to a convent. Her decision was now formed. She devoted a few sad days to the necessary arrangements, took an agonizing leave, as she supposed forever, of her children, to whom she was tenderly attached, and for whom the king had made ample provision, and, addressing a parting letter to him, entered her carriage, to seek, for a second time, a final retreat in the convent of Chaillot.

It was late in the evening when she entered those gloomy cells where broken hearts find a living burial. To the abbess she said, "I have no longer a home in the palace; may I hope to find one in the cloister?" The abbess received her with true Christian sympathy. After listening with a tearful eye to the recital of her sorrows, she conducted her to the cell in which she was to pass the night.

"She could not pray, although she cast herself upon her knees beside the narrow pallet, and strove to rejoice that she had at length escaped from the trials of a world which had wearied her, and of which she herself was weary. There was no peace, no joy in her rebel heart. She thought of the first days of her happiness; of her children, who on the morrow would ask for her in vain; and then, as memory swept over her throbbing brain, she remembered her former flight to Chaillot, and that it was the king himself who had led her back again into the world. Her brow burned as the question forced itself upon her, Would he do so a second time? would he once more hasten, as he had then done, to rescue her from the living death to which she had consigned herself as an atonement for her past errors?

"But hour after hour went by, and all was silent. Hope died within her. Daylight streamed dimly into the narrow casement of her cell. Soon the measured step of the abbess fell upon her ear as she advanced up the long gallery, striking upon the door of each cell as she approached, and uttering in a solemn voice, 'Let us bless the Lord.' To which appeal each of the sisters replied in turn, 'I give him thanks.'"

The deceptive heart of Louise led her to hope, notwithstanding she had voluntarily sought the cloister, that the king, yearning for her presence, would come himself, as soon as he heard of her departure, and affectionately force her back to the Louvre. Early in the morning she heard the sound of carriage-wheels entering the court-yard of the convent. Her heart throbbed with excitement. Soon she was summoned from her cell to the parlor. Much to her disappointment, the king was not there, but his minister, M. Colbert, presented to her a very affectionate letter from his majesty urging her return. As she hesitated, M. Colbert pleaded earnestly in behalf of his sovereign.

The feeble will of Louise yielded, while yet she blushed at her own weakness. Tears filled her eyes as she took leave of the abbess, grasping her hand, and saying, "This is not a farewell; I shall assuredly return, and perhaps very soon." The king was much moved in receiving her, and, with great apparent cordiality, thanked her for having complied with his entreaties. Even the heart of Madame de Montespan was touched. She received with words of love and sympathy the returned fugitive, whose rivalry she no longer feared, and in whose sad career she perhaps saw mirrored her own future doom.

Madame de Montespan was then in the zenith of her power. The king had assigned her the beautiful chateau of Clagny, but a short distance from Versailles. Here she lived in great splendor, entertaining foreign embassadors, receiving from them costly gifts, and introducing them to her children as if they were really princes of the blood.

Notwithstanding the corruptions of the papal Church, there were in that Church many faithful ministers of Jesus Christ. Some of them, in their preaching, inveighed very severely against the sinful practices in the court. Not only Madame de Montespan, but the king, often knew that they were directly referred to. But the guilty yet sagacious monarch carefully avoided any appropriation of the denunciations to himself. Still, he was so much annoyed that he seriously contemplated urging Madame de Montespan to retire to a convent. He even authorized the venerable Bossuet, then Bishop of Condom, to call upon Madame de Montespan, and suggest in his name that she should withdraw from the court and retire to the seclusion of the cloister. But the haughty favorite, conscious of the power of her charms, and knowing full well that the king had only submitted to the suggestion, peremptorily refused. She judged correctly. The king was well pleased to have her remain.

The preparations which the king was making for the invasion of Holland greatly alarmed the Dutch government. France had become powerful far beyond any other Continental kingdom. The king had the finest army in Europe. Turenne, Condé, Vauban, ranked among the ablest generals and engineers of any age. While Louis XIV. was apparently absorbed in his pleasures, Europe was surprised to see vast trains of artillery and ammunition wagons crowding the roads of his northern provinces. In his previous campaign, Louis had taken Flanders in three months, and Franche-Comté in three weeks. These rapid conquests had alarmed neighboring nations, and Holland, Switzerland, and England had entered into an alliance to resist farther encroachments, should they be attempted.

Louis affected to be very angry that such a feeble state as Holland should have the impudence to think of limiting his conquests. Having, as we have mentioned, detached England from the alliance by bribing with gold and female charms the miserable Charles II., Louis was ready, without any declaration of war, even without any openly avowed  cause of grievance, to invade Holland, and annex the territory to his realms. The States-General, alarmed in view of the magnitude of the military operations which were being made upon their borders, sent embassadors to the French court humbly to inquire if these preparations were designed against Holland, the ancient and faithful ally of France, and, if so, in what respect Holland had offended.

Louis XIV. haughtily and insolently replied, "I shall make use of my troops as my own dignity renders advisable. I am not responsible for my conduct to any power whatever."

The real ability of the king was shown in the effectual measures he adopted to secure, without the chance of failure, the triumphant execution of his plans. Twenty millions of people had been robbed of their hard earnings to fill his army chests with gold. An army of a hundred and thirty thousand men, in the highest state of discipline, and abundantly supplied with all the munitions of war, were on the march for the northern frontiers of France. These troops were supported by a combined English and French fleet of one hundred and thirty vessels of war. It was the most resistless force, all things considered, Europe had then ever witnessed. We shall not enter into the details of this campaign, which are interesting only to military men. Twelve hundred of the sons of the nobles were organized into a body-guard, ever to surround the king. They were decorated with the most brilliant uniforms, glittering with embroideries of gold and silver, and were magnificently mounted. The terrible bayonet was then, for the first time, attached to the musket. Light pontoons of brass for crossing the rivers were carried on wagons. A celebrated writer, M. Pelisson, accompanied the king, to give a glowing narrative of his achievements.

As there had been no declaration of war and no commencement of hostilities, the king purchased a large amount of military stores even in the states of Holland, which, no one could doubt, he was preparing to invade. A Dutch merchant, being censured by Prince Maurice for entering into a traffic so unpatriotic, replied,

"My lord, if there could be opened to me by sea any advantageous commerce with the infernal regions, I should certainly go there, even at the risk of burning my sails."

Louis made arrangements that money should be liberally expended to bribe the commandants of the Dutch fortresses. To oppose all these moral and physical forces, Holland had but twenty-five thousand soldiers, poorly armed and disciplined. They were under the command of the Prince of Orange, who was in feeble health, and but twenty-two years of age. But this young prince proved to be one of the most extraordinary men of whom history gives any account; yet it was manifestly impossible for him now to arrest the torrent about to invade his courts.

Louis rapidly pushed his troops forward into the unprotected states of Holland which bordered the left banks of the Rhine. His march was unresisted. Liberally he paid for whatever he took, distributed presents to the nobles, and, preparing to cross the river, placed his troops in strong detachments in villages scattered along the banks of the stream. The king himself was at the head of a choice body of thirty thousand troops. Marshal Turenne commanded under him.

The whole country on the left bank of the Rhine was soon in possession of the French, as village after village fell into their hands. The main object of the Prince of Orange was to prevent the French from crossing the river. Louis intended to have crossed by his pontoons, suddenly moving upon some unexpected point. But there came just then a very severe drouth. The water fell so low that there was a portion of the stream which could be nearly forded. It would be necessary to swim the horses but about twenty feet. The current was slow, and the passage could be easily effected. By moving rapidly, the Prince of Orange would not be able to collect at that point sufficient troops seriously to embarrass the operation.

Fifteen thousand horsemen were here sent across, defended by artillery on the banks, and aided by boats of brass. But one man in the French army, the young Duke de Longueville, was killed. He lost his life through inebriation, and its consequent folly and crime. Half crazed with wine, he refused quarter to a Dutch officer who had thrown down his arms and surrendered. Reeling in his saddle, he shot down the officer, exclaiming, "No quarter for these rascals." Some of the Dutch infantry, who were just surrendering, in despair opened fire, and the drunken duke received the death-blow he merited.

This passage of the Rhine was considered a very brilliant achievement, and added much to the military reputation of Louis XIV., though it appears to have been exclusively the feat of the Prince of Condé. The cities of Holland fell in such rapid succession into the power of the French, that scarcely an hour of the day passed in which the king did not receive the news of some conquest. An officer named Mazel sent an aid to Marshal Turenne to say,

"If you will be kind enough to send me fifty horsemen, I shall with them be able to take two or three places."

It was on the 12th of June, 1672, that the passage of the Rhine was effected. On the 20th the French king made his triumphal entrance into the city of Utrecht. The king was a Catholic—a bigoted Catholic. Corrupt as he was in life, regardless as he was in his private conduct of the precepts of Jesus, he was extremely zealous to invest the Catholic Church with power and splendor. It was with him a prominent object to give the Catholic religion the supremacy.

Amsterdam was the capital of the republic. The capture of that city would complete the conquest. Not only the republic would perish, but Holland would, as it were, disappear from the earth, her territory being absorbed in that of France. The consternation in the metropolis was great. The most noble and wealthy families were preparing for a rapid flight to the north. Amsterdam was then the most opulent and influential commercial town in Europe. It contained a population of two hundred thousand sagacious, energetic, thrifty people. As is invariably the case in days of disaster, there were discordant counsels and angry divisions among the bewildered defenders of the imperiled realm. Some were for fiercely pressing the war, others for humbly imploring peace.

At length four deputies were sent to the French camp to intercede for the clemency of the conqueror. They were received with raillery and insult. After contemptuously compelling the deputation several times to come and go without any result, the king at last condescended to present the following as his terms:

He demanded that the States of Holland should surrender to him the whole of the territory on the left bank of the Rhine; that they should place in his hands, to be garrisoned by French troops, the most important forts and fortified towns of the republic; that they should pay him twenty millions of francs, a sum equal to several times that amount at the present day; that the French should be placed in command of all the important entrances to Holland, both by sea and land, and should be exempted from paying any duty upon the goods they should enter; that the Catholic religion should be established every where through the realm; and that every year the republic should send to Louis XIV. an embassador, with a golden medal, upon which there should be impressed the declaration that the republic held all its privileges through the favor of Louis XIV. To these conditions were to be added such as the States-General should be compelled to make with the other allies engaged in the war.

The nations of Europe have been guilty of many outrages, but perhaps it would be difficult to find one more atrocious than this. In reference to the cause of the war, Voltaire very truly remarks, "It is a singular fact, and worthy of record, that of all the enemies, there was not one that could allege any pretext whatever for the war." It was an enterprise very similar to that of the coalition of Louis XII., the Emperor Maximilian, and Spain, who conspired for the overthrow of the Venetian republic simply because that republic was rich and prosperous.

These terms, dictated by the insolence of the conqueror, were quite intolerable. They inspired the courage of despair. The resolution was at once formed to perish, if perish they must, with their arms in their hands. The Prince of Orange had always urged the vigorous prosecution of the war. Guided by his energetic counsel, they pierced the dikes, which alone protected their country from the waters of the sea. The flood rushed in through the opened barriers, converting hundreds of leagues of fertile fields into an ocean. The inundation flooded the houses, swept away the roads, destroyed the harvest, drowned the flocks; and yet no one uttered a murmur. Louis XIV., by his infamous demands, had united all hearts in the most determined resistance. Amsterdam appeared like a large fortress rising in the midst of the ocean, surrounded by ships of war, which found depth of water to float where ships had never floated before. The distress was dreadful. It was the briny ocean whose waves were now sweeping over the land. It was so difficult to obtain any fresh water that it was sold for six cents a pint.

Maritime Holland, though weak upon the land, was still powerful on the sea. The united fleet of the allies did not exceed that of the republic. The Dutch Admiral Ruyter, with a hundred vessels of war and fifty fire-ships, repaired to the coasts of England in search of his foes. He met the allied fleet on the 7th of June, 1672, and in the heroic naval battle of Solbaie disabled and dispersed it. This gave Holland the entire supremacy on the sea. Thus suddenly Louis XIV. found himself checked, and no farther progress was possible.

The Prince of Orange gave all his private revenues to the state, and entered into negotiations with other powers, who were already alarmed by the encroachments of the French king. The Emperor of Germany, the Spanish court, and Flanders, entered into an alliance with the heroic prince. He even compelled Charles II. to withdraw from that union with Louis XIV. which was opposed to the interests of England, and into which his court had been reluctantly dragged. Troops from all quarters were hurrying forward for the protection of Holland.

The villainy of Louis XIV. was thwarted. Chagrined at seeing his conquest at an end, but probably with no compunctions of conscience for the vast amount of misery his crime had caused, he left his discomfited army under the command of Turenne and the other generals, and returned to his palaces in France.

The troops which remained in Holland committed outrages which rendered the very name of the French detested. Louis, from the midst of the pomp and pleasure of his palaces, still displayed extraordinary energies. Agents were dispatched to all the courts of Europe with large sums of money for purposes of bribery. By his diplomatic cunning, Hungary was roused against Austria. Gold was lavished upon the King of England to induce him, notwithstanding the opposition of the British Parliament, to continue in alliance with France. Several of the petty states of Germany were bought over. Louis greatly increased his naval force. He soon had forty ships of war afloat, besides a large number of fire-ships.

But Europe had been so alarmed by his encroachments and his menaces that, notwithstanding his efforts at diplomacy and intrigue, he was compelled to abandon his enterprise, and withdraw his troops from the provinces he had overrun.

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


In the early part of his campaign, Louis, flushed with victory and assured of entire success, had commenced building, as a monument of his great achievement, the arch of triumph at the gate of St. Denis. The structure was scarcely completed ere he was compelled to withdraw his troops from Holland, to meet the foes who were crowding upon him from all directions.

Louis XIV. now found nearly all Europe against him. He sent twenty thousand men, under Marshal Turenne, to encounter the forces of the Emperor of Germany. The Prince de Condé was sent with forty thousand troops to assail the redoubtable Prince of Orange. Another strong detachment was dispatched to the frontiers of Spain, to arrest the advance of the Spanish troops. A fleet was also sent, conveying a large land force, to make a diversion by attacking the Spanish sea-ports.

Turenne, in defending the frontiers of the Rhine, acquired reputation which has made his name one of the most renowned in military annals. The emperor sent seventy thousand men against him. Turenne had but twenty thousand to meet them. By wonderful combinations, he defeated and dispersed the whole imperial army. It added not a little to the celebrity of Turenne that he had achieved his victory by following his own judgment, in direct opposition to reiterated orders from the minister of war, given in the name of the king.

Turenne, a merciless warrior, allowed no considerations of humanity to interfere with his military operations. The Palatinate, a country on both sides the Rhine, embracing a territory of about sixteen hundred square miles, and a population of over three hundred thousand, was laid in ashes by his command. It was a beautiful region, very fertile, and covered with villages and opulent cities. The Elector Palatine saw from the towers of his castle at Manheim two cities and twenty-five villages at the same time in flames. This awful destruction was perpetrated upon the defenseless inhabitants, that the armies of the emperor, encountering entire desolation, might be deprived of subsistence. It was nothing to Turenne that thousands of women and children should be cast houseless into the fields to starve.

Alsace, with nearly a million of inhabitants, encountered the same doom. Another province, Lorraine, which covered an area of about ten thousand square miles, and contained a population of one and a half millions, was swept of all its provisions by the cavalry of the French commander. In reference to these military operations, Voltaire writes,

"All the injuries he inflicted seemed to be necessary. Besides, the army of seventy thousand Germans, whom he thus prevented from entering France, would have inflicted much more injury than Turenne inflicted upon Lorraine, Alsace, and the Palatinate."

On the 27th of June, 1675, a cannon ball struck Turenne, and closed in an instant his earthly career. His renown filled Europe. He was a successful warrior, a dissolute man; and few who have ever lived have caused more wide-spread misery than could be charged to his account. Such is not the character which best prepares one to stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

The war continued for two years with somewhat varying fortune, but with unvarying blood and misery. At last peace was made on the 14th of August, 1678—the peace of Nimeguen, as it is styled. Louis XIV. dictated the terms. He was now at the height of his grandeur. He had enlarged his domains by the addition of Franche-Comté, Dunkirk, and half of Flanders. His courtiers worshiped him as a demigod. The French court conferred upon him, with imposing solemnities, the title of Louis le Grand. The ambition of Louis was by no means satiated. He availed himself of the short peace which ensued to form plans and gather resources for new conquests.

Let us now return from fields of blood to life in the palace. Madame de la Valliére, upon her return from the convent, soon found herself utterly miserable. She had hoped that reviving affection had been the inducement which led Louis to recall her. Instead of this, his attentions daily diminished. Madame de Montespan had accompanied the king in his brief trip to Holland, and returned with him to Paris. She was all-powerful at court, and seemed to delight, by word and deed, to add to the anguish of her vanquished rival. After a dreary year of wretchedness, Louise could endure no longer a residence in the palace. Her mother, who had been exceedingly distressed in view of the ignominious position occupied by her daughter, entreated her to retire to the Duchy of Vaujours with her children. Her mother promised to accompany her to that quiet yet beautiful retreat. But the spirit of Louise was broken. She longed only to sever herself entirely from the world, and to seek a living burial in the glooms of the cloister. In those days of sorrow, penitence and the spirit of devotion sprang up in her weary heart.

Louise was still young and beautiful. Her passionate love for the king still held strong dominion over her. Grief brought on a long and dangerous illness. For many days her life was in danger. In view of the approaching judgment, where she felt that she soon must stand, the greatness of her transgression harrowed her soul, and increased her desire to spend the rest of her life in works of piety and in prayer. When convalescent, the king consented to her retirement to the Carmelite convent. Like one in a dream, she took leave of her children without a tear. Then, entering the apartment of the queen, she threw herself upon her knees, and with the sobbings of a remorseful and despairing heart implored her pardon for all the sorrow she had caused her. The generous Maria Theresa raised her up, embraced her, and declared her entirely forgiven.

The morning of her departure arrived. The king, who was that day to leave Paris to visit the army in Flanders, attended high mass. Louise also attended. Absorbed in prayer, she did not raise her eyes during the service. She then, pale as death, and leaning upon the arm of her mother, but for whose support she must have fallen, advanced to take leave of the king. The selfish monarch, with a dry eye and a firm voice, bade her adieu, coldly expressing the hope that she would be happy in her retreat. Without the slightest apparent emotion, he saw Louise, with her earthly happiness utterly wrecked, enter her carriage and drive away, to pass the remainder of her joyless years in the gloomy cell of the convent. He then turned and conversed with his companions with as much composure as if nothing unusual had happened.

Louise, upon her arrival at the convent, cast herself upon her knees before the abbess, saying that hitherto she had made so ill a use of her free will that she came to resign it to the abbess forever. For thirty-six years the heart-broken penitent endured the hardships of her convent life—its narrow pallet, its hard fare, its prolonged devotions, its silence, and its rigid fastings. Under the name of Louisa of Mercy she with the most exemplary fidelity performed all her dreary duties, until, in her sixty-sixth year, she fell asleep, and passed away, we trust, to the bosom of that Savior who is ever ready to receive the returning penitent.

The hapless Henrietta, duchess of Orleans, left a very beautiful daughter, Maria Louisa. Her charms of countenance, person, and manners attracted the admiration of the whole court, where she was a universal favorite. She was compelled by the king, as a matter of state policy, to marry Charles II., the young King of Spain, for whom she felt no affection. Bitterly she wept in view of the terrible sacrifice she was compelled to make. But the will of the king was inexorable. Her melancholy marriage was solemnized with much splendor in the great chapel at St. Germain. She then left, with undisguised reluctance, for Madrid. The King of Spain, feeble in body, more feeble in mind, moody and melancholy, was charmed by her youth and beauty. Her mental endowments were such that she soon acquired entire ascendency over him. He became pliant as wax in her hands.

The cabinet at Vienna were alarmed lest Maria Louisa should influence her husband to unite with France against Germany. The Countess de Soissons was sent as a secret agent to the Spanish court. Beautiful and fascinating, she soon became exceedingly intimate with the queen. One day Maria Louisa, oppressed by the heat, expressed regret at the scarcity of milk in Madrid, saying how much she should enjoy a good draught. The countess assured her that she knew where to obtain some of excellent quality, and that, with her majesty's permission, she would have it iced and present it with her own hands. The queen received the cup with a smile, and drank it at once. In half an hour she was taken ill. After a few hours of horrible agony, such as her unhappy mother had previously endured from the same cause, she died. In the confusion, the countess escaped from the capital. She was pursued, but her arrangements for escape had been so skillfully made that she could not be overtaken.

Maria Theresa, the neglected queen of France, had borne six children; but of these, at this period, there was but one surviving son, the dauphin. In his character there appeared a combination of most singular anomalies and contradictions. Though exceedingly impulsive and obstinate in obeying every freak of his fancy, he seemed incapable of any affection, and alike incapable of any hostility, except that which flashed up for the moment.

"The example of his guardians had inspired him with a few amiable qualities, but his natural vices defied eradication. His constitutional tendencies were all evil. His greatest pleasure consisted in annoying those about him. Those who were most conversant with his humor could never guess the temper of his mind. He laughed the loudest and affected the greatest amiability when he was most exasperated, and scowled defiance when he was perfectly unruffled. His only talent was a keen sense of the ridiculous. Nothing escaped him that could be tortured into sarcasm, although no one could have guessed, from his abstracted and careless demeanor, that he was conscious of any thing that was taking place in his presence. His indolence was extreme, and his favorite amusement was lying stretched upon a sofa tapping the points of his shoes with a cane. Never, to the day of his death, had even his most intimate associates heard him express an opinion upon any subject relating to art, literature, or politics."

Such was the imbecile young man who, by the absurd law of hereditary descent, was the destined heir to the throne of more than twenty millions of people. The king was anxious to obtain for his son a bride whose alliance would strengthen him against his enemies. With that policy alone influencing him, he applied for the hand of the Princess Mary Ann of Bavaria. It so chanced that she was in personal appearance exceedingly unattractive. The king said that, "though she was not handsome, he still hoped that Monseigneur would be able to live happily with her."

The dauphin, or Monseigneur as he was called, seemed to be perfectly indifferent to the whole matter. He at one time inquired if the princess were free from any deformity. Upon being told that she was, he seemed quite contented, and asked no farther questions. In anticipation of the marriage, a lady, Madame de Maintenon, whose name henceforth became inseparably connected with that of Louis XIV., was appointed to the distinguished post of "mistress of the robes" to the dauphiness. We must now introduce this distinguished lady to our readers.

The Marchioness Françoise d'Aubigné was born of a noble Protestant family, in the year 1635, in the prison of Niort. Her mother, with her little boy, had been permitted to join her imprisoned husband in his captivity. Here Françoise was born, amidst scenes of the most extreme poverty and misery. The emaciate mother was unable to afford sustenance to her infant. A sister of Baron d'Aubigné, Madame de Vilette, took Françoise to her home at the Chateau de Marcey, where she passed her infancy. After an imprisonment of four years, the baron was released; but, as he refused to abjure Calvinism, Cardinal Richelieu would not permit him to remain in France. He consequently, with his family, embarked for Martinique. During the passage, Françoise was taken ill and apparently died. As one of the crew was about to consign the body to its ocean burial, the grief-stricken mother implored the privilege of one parting embrace. As she pressed the child to her heart, she perceived indications of life. The babe recovered, to occupy a position which filled the world with her renown.

Upon the island of Martinique prosperity smiled upon them. Madame d'Aubigné was a Catholic, though her husband was a Protestant. She at length took ship for France, hoping to save some portion of her husband's sequestered estates, but was unsuccessful. Upon her return to Martinique, she found that Baron d'Aubigné, during her absence, deprived of her restraining influence, had utterly ruined himself by gambling. Overwhelmed by regret and misery, he almost immediately sank into the grave. Madame d'Aubigné and her two children, in the extreme of poverty, returned to France. Madame de Vilette again took the little Françoise to the chateau of Marcey. As her mother was a Catholic, Françoise had been baptized by a Romish priest, and reared in the faith of her mother. The Countess de Neuillant, who was attached to the household of Anne of Austria, was her godmother, and a very intense Catholic; but Madame de Vilette, the sister of the child's father, was a Protestant. The susceptible child was soon led to adopt the faith of her protectress. Catholic zeal was such in those days that Madame de Neuillant obtained an order from the court to remove the little girl from the Protestant family, and to place her under her own guardianship. Here every effort was made to induce Françoise to return to the Catholic faith, but neither threats nor entreaties were of any avail. She remained firm in her Protestant principles. The persecution she endured amounted almost to martyrdom. Madame de Neuillant, in her rage, imposed upon her the most humiliating and onerous domestic services. She was the servant of the servants. She fed the horses. She suffered from cold and hunger. Thus she, who subsequently caused the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and thus exposed the Protestants to the most dreadful sufferings, was a martyr of the religion of which she later became so terrible a scourge.

The mother, witnessing the distress of her child, succeeded in withdrawing her from Madame de Neuillant, and placing her in a convent. Here the Ursuline nuns won her over to the Catholic faith. Proud of their convert, who was remarkably intelligent and attractive, they kept her for a year. But as neither Madame de Neuillant, from whom she had been removed, nor Madame de Vilette, who dreaded her return to Romanism, would pay her board, they refused to give her any longer a shelter. Françoise left the convent, and joined her mother only in time to see her sink in sorrow to the grave. She was thus left, at fourteen years of age, in utter destitution, dependent upon charity for support.