« НазадПродовжити »
of the army in Italy. There was no evidence of emasculated energy in his military conduct. He inspired confidence by his courage and undoubted skill, and France, from the King to the peasant, paid homage to his genius. Commanding afterwards in Spain, he gained fresh laurels, and returned to Paris after a victorious campaign, to be fêted for his success, and execrated for his continued and glaring impiety. By Louis XIV. and his family the Duke was execrated shortly afterwards on private and especial grounds. Whilst fighting the battles of his country in Spain, it would appear that the young Duke had carried on negotiations somewhat too exclusively on his own account. To put an end to the war his Royal Highness proposed to the allies that he should be placed upon the Spanish throne, upon conditions favourable to the enemy, and likely to conduce to the peace of Europe. The proposition was under consideration when intelligence of the treachery, and documents that confirmed it, reached the court of France, and threw it into panic and consternation.
Other circumstances tended rapidly to establish and extend the Duke's unpopularity. On the 6th of July, 1710, the daughter of the Duke of Orleans (the infamous offspring of an infamous sire) married the Duc de Berri, son of the dauphin of France. On the 9th of April, 1711, as the dauphin was preparing for the chase at Meudon, he was suddenly seized with a fainting fit, and four days afterwards died of the smallpox. The title of “dauphin” was then transferred to the Duke of Burgundy, the late dauphin's eldest surviving son. Early in 1712 the Duchess of Burgundy was attacked with scarlatina.
She fell a victim to the disease on the 12th of Feb. ruary. Six days afterwards the Duke her husband died of the same complaint. On the 8th of March their eldest boy shared his parents' fate. Between the Duke of Orleans and the throne of France there interposed, after the decease of the Duc de Berri, only a sickly child at the breast, the remaining son of the Duke of Burgundy. Henrietta of England, Maria Louisa, Queen of Spain, had fallen by the hand of the poisoner; could the wholesale destruction in the family of the King be the work of chance and nature? The facts were remembered and the question was asked. France by common consent accused the Duke of Orleans of being the murderer of his race, and the wretched man reeled under the terrible and unmerited accusation.
Frowned upon at court, insulted by the mob, the Duke of Orleans sought consolation amidst furnaces and alembics, and in orgies at which the Duchess de Berri presided-herself the incarnation of blasphemy and unrestrained licentiousness. The companions of father and daughter were the most corrupted and hardened of their kind, the title to admission to a hellish feast being simply a readiness to laugh at morality and to insult God. But whilst dividing his time between the study of astrology and magical divination, in which he religiously believed, and the profanation of the laws of his Maker, which he sacrilegiously contemned, the extraordinary man of whom we speak found means to repair the reputation accident had broken, and to indemnify himself for the unjust calumnies of a whole people. Louis XIV. was King, parliament, and all. His magnificent will
Englishe vast differ the English Beneath wh
was supreme law, and France, under his rule, answered to his nod as nature moves at the behest of its Creator. The Duke of Orleans, in his disgrace, suddenly conceived the highest reverence for the decrees of parliament, and a boundless respect for its prerogatives. He was familiar with the constitution of England as it had been remodelled under the bouse of Orange. His sympathies were with the English Whigs, and it grieved him to the heart to note the vast difference between the masculine representative system of the English people, and the feeble and abject name of a system beneath which France groaned. The Duke, wise in his generation, resolved that political liberality should take the place of charity, and cover all his sins. How needy are the spirits of men of the freedom which is the breath of life; how much is overlooked and cheerfully forgiven in the man who, with the power to make his fellowcreatures walk erect, bids them go forth in independent strength, the incredulous now may learn. The Duke of Orleans was the murderer of the. dauphins, so it was believed; he dealt in the forbidden arts of magic and necromancy: he had defied Heaven and raised the devil ; accusations with respect to his own daughter too terrible to repeat, were the common theme of the multitude; his daring impiety scared the discreet; his disregard of public decency offended even the unscrupulous ;-yet it was bruited abroad, in an age of acute, though splendid tyranny, that a prince near to the throne felt for the wrongs of a people, and sighed to give them liberty of soul and body: and in a moment all was forgotten and washed out. The lesson is tremendous ; so is another ;
but will either ever be thoroughly learnt ? The Duke of Orleans received the condonation and support of his clients, and then laughed outright at them for their credulity and pains.
Louis XIV. made a will. His grandson was a child when his own foot was at the grave. Dreading a regency which should give uncontrolled power to his nephew, he desired that the regency might consist of a council, at which the Duke of Orleans should sit as president; the remaining members of the council were the Duke's known enemies. The will was deposited with much state and ceremony in the wall of the Parliament House, and after the King's death the solemn document was read. Concerning the death itself little need be said. The King was seventyseven years old, and he quitted the world with magnanimity. His power during his long and singular reign is known to every boy. His magnificence has passed into a proverb. No monarch had ever been so flattered in life; few have been so insulted in death. His funeral procession was poor and mean. It was a time of general rejoicing. Everybody, according to a contemporary authority, “was eating
contenant authoritima ostina and drinking along the whole road to St. Denis ;” and whilst the coffin was being deposited in its final resting-place, the writers of lampoons, pamphlets, and satires were hard at work at the poor King's expense.
The royal will, we say, was read, and proved waste paper. During the operation the Duke of Orleans took care that the parliament should be surrounded by soldiers, lest the assembly might object to his Highness's sole regency; but the parliament, cager to welcome a constitutional chief, needed not the touch of the sword to give the Duke of Orleans unlimited power as Regent of the kingdom. The worst man in France became the first in virtue of a lie. It was a fatal mistake, and has been repeated.
The morals of the court of Louis XIV. were bad enough, but they were pure in comparison with those of the Regency. There was an affectation of stern piety in the midst of fearful libertinism so long as Louis lived. If offences against society and the laws of man and Heaven were hourly perpetrated, shame was not wholly lost in the transgressors. Ladies escaped from the embraces of their paramours to find immediate absolution in the convent. There was a recognition of the claims of morality even whilst they were set at defiance. Madame de Maintenon was a devotee, and Louis XIV., who blazoned forth his adulteries, and set aside the laws of marriage, when he proclaimed the children of his mistress as legitimate as his lawful issue, could remonstrate like a virtuous patriarch with the daring nephew, whose proceedings after all were shaped according to the model supplied him by his uncle. The King cloaked the delinquencies of his court by a specious etiquette, and the practices he pretended to abhor when they assumed the form of naked vice, passed unreproved in the taking garb of knightly gallantry. Upon the death of Louis XIV. the court threw off the hypocritical mask, and gloried in its unblushing infamy. The Regent had no respect for virtue, and no desire to conceal his great contempt for it. Restraint was weakness. The consequence of the change was soon evident enough. Infidelity and immorality, that
9, and gloriedes pect for virtue,