Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

wounded by the irony of Boileau ; but Madame de la Fayette, the friend of Madame de Sévigné, had written, · Zaire,' and a more modern story, called · La Princesse de Clèves,' was probably in hand, for these were long compositions, and were greatly polished, and read and discussed amid circles of friends before they appeared in print, with the royal sanction. The Countess D’Aulnoy and M. Perrault had discovered what a mine of interest existed in the old fairy tales, traditions of all nations, and wove some, gracefully told, into a long tale of nobles and princesses. She and her contemporary, imitators gave Beauty and the Beast, the White Cat, Cinderella, Riquet with a Tuft, and others, that special form in which they have become classical. Altogether it was a time of unusual mental activity, and Louis, though ill-taught in his boyhood, privately studied to keep up with the times, and had the royal perfection of never being at a loss. On the birth of his son, he named as his governess the Duchess of Montausier, Julie de Rambouillet, one of the wisest and best women of his Court; and later he nominated as his tutor, Bossuet, the great preacher, most deeply respected throughout France.

Louis had something fine in his disposition, though education had done all that was possible to spoil it. He was far from unkindly or cruel, but self-worship often made him harsh, and his first victim was Fouquet. Mazarin had warned him against this superintendent of his finances, and when Colbert looked into the accounts, he found there was ample reason for the caution. Fouquet was immensely rich, but he enjoyed a fair reputation, and there seems reason to believe that he had done no worse than was the custom of financiers, and almost supposed to be their right. He had an excellent and devout mother, who was constantly praying that his worldly prosperity might not be his ruin, and he was a great friend of Madame de Sévigné; but the King was resolved on his fall, and all the more because he had bought and fortified the little Breton rock of Belleisle, an act sure to excite the jealousy of the Crown. He was ProcureurGeneral to the Parliament, and this gave him privileges which rendered it more difficult to take action against him; but one day when Colbert and he were talking over the King's monetary difficulties, he proposed as a convenience to the King to sell the office for a million and a half livres.

The offer was eagerly accepted, but was far from softening the King. Nor was Louis touched by a wonderful fête given to him and all his Court at Vaux, a magnificent château, with gardens laid out by Le Nôtre, filled with everything costly and splendid, and everywhere decorated with squirrels-Fouquet in Angevin patois means a squirrel and there was the Minister's 'canting coat of arms, with the motto, · Quo non ascendam ?' Louis looked at the words as o sinister augury, and his compliment, 'I never saw anything finer, even in my own houses,' had a perilous sound.

The banquet was served by Vatel, the first cook in France, the gold and silver plate were of extraordinary beauty and value ; but Louis only whispered to his mother, “We will make him disgorge," and Anne of Austria, who liked and pitied the doomed man, had to. withhold her son by telling him that it would be an odious thing to arrest his host at a festival in his own honour.

A new comedy, 'Les Fâcheux,' written by Molière, was now acted in the open air, in front of a piece of ornamental water, through which, when all had taken their seats, an enchanted rock seemed to advance, and presently was transformed into a gigantic shell, whence emerged a goddess, round whom Tritons, Naiads, Nymphs, and Cupids, grouped themselves, while she spoke a prologue addressed. to the King, and beginning

Jeune, victorieux, sage, vaillant, auguste
Aussi doux que sévère, aussi puissant que juste.'

The play was arranged so that it ended in time for darkness to permit a grand display of fireworks, in the midst of which Louis. drove off, only hardened against the man who had made such a display of wealth, as he considered, at the cost of his own treasury.

Still the blow was deferred. Louis was going to Nantes to preside at the Estates of Brittany, accompanied by his Ministers. Fouquet began to be uneasy, and fell ill when he reached Nantes, where he had a magnificent hotel. He struggled, however, with his fever, and rose in time to go to the Council at 7 A.M., because the King was going out hunting.

Louis had, however, given written orders to M. d'Artagnan, the Captain of a troop of Musqueteers of the Guard, and the streets were lined with armed men. The Council lasted as usual for some hours, and at 11 o'clock, as Fouquet was going home, he was met by d'Artagnan in the small square before the Cathedral; and the King's orders were held out to him.

'I thought I stood better with the King than any one in the kingdom,' sighed Fouquet. “Let us avoid éclat, I entreat you, Monsieur.'

The Musqueteer let him go into the house of a connection, the Archdeacon of Nantes, and there he was arrested, and taken away in a carriage to the Castle of Angers, a great fortress of the Plantagenets, his papers were searched, and his agent, the poet Pellisson, also imprisoned at Angers, but not allowed to see him.

When the tidings reached old Madame Fouquet, she fell on her knees, crying, 'I thank Thee, O my God; I always entreated Thee for his salvation. This is the road thereto.'

Fouquet had indeed been a very dissipated man in private life, and greedy and unscrupulous as a public servant; yet there was a reserve of piety in his heart, and his first entreaty was for a confessor; but it was long before this was granted, though his mother, wife, and daughter prayed fervently in the churches, and the old lady piteously addressed the Queens, both mother and daughter-in-law; but the ex- . amination of his papers only exasperated the King more against him. Yet he must have had a great charm about him. La Fontaine went and gazed in vain at the outside of his prison, was torn away with difficulty, and described the place in the lines

•Chambre murée, étroite place
Quelque peu d'air pour toute grâce,

Jours sans soleil,

Nuits sans sommeil,

Trois portes en six pieds d'espace.' The prisoner was removed to Vincennes, and thence to the Bastille, without being allowed to see any of his family, though they contrived to communicate with him. The trial lasted altogether three years. The accounts of it were constantly sent by Madame de Sévigné to M. de Pom ponne, one of the Arnauld family. In the midst, the young Queen had a sharp attack of illness, from which she began to recover after putting on a plaster, compounded, amid many prayers and tears, by old Madame Fouquet. She has saved the Queen. She is a true saint, and works miracles,' wrote Madame de Sévigné; but gratitude had no effect on the King, and he insisted on the trial being carried on. It lasted three whole years, for life or death, for it was treason to embezzle the King's treasures, and the Parliament of Paris had Fouquet's fate in their hands. Of the this ty judges, nine were for his death, thirteen for perpetual imprisonment, and confiscation of property.

· Praise God, and thank Him,' wrote Madame de Sévigné. I am so glad, that I am quite beside myself!'

It was an unrelenting King. The prisoner was not allowed one glimpse of his mother, wife, or children, nor even to take his valet or his doctor, and only wore furs lent him by D'Artagnan when he was sent on the long journey to Pignerol, a mountain fortress on the borders of Savoy, where he remained till his death, twenty years later. For the first fourteen he was isolated entirely; but afterwards he was permitted to see his mother and daughter, and the good old lady had the joy of knowing him to be a devout and penitent man before she died, only a year before his long captivity was closed by his death.

The King had here shown all the hardness of a man bred to regard himself as the apex and focus of all duty, and crimes against him as inexpiable; but his gracious moods were fascinating, and there was a real ascendancy of character in him that, together with the grandeur and brilliancy of his Court, made him seem a being not to be criticised, but admired and obeyed, a sort of Jupiter in an Olympus of his own. He thought himself religious, but this was shown in obedience to the Jesuit guidance, and thus his personal rule proved all the worse for the Jansenists. He was naturally averse to their strictness, and their resistance to authority was abhorrent to him. The partizanship of Cardinal de Retz in his exile at Rome only did them harm, and under the royal influence, the assembly of clergy passed a decree that the formulary condemping Jansen for the Five Propositions must be signed by all clergy, and all members of religious orders, and all teachers in schools.

Nobody wished to hold to the Propositions, but the Jansenists declared that they were not in the works of their master, and the nuns of Port Royal said that never having read the books, they did not know what was in them, and could not condemn without knowing. Singlin, their confessor, one of the Arnaulds, had to fly, and all the schools connected with Port Royal were closed.

The nuns in the Paris convent signed, but those in the parent convent held out for a long time. In the opinion of their enemies they were pious as angels, but proud as demons. The saintly Mère Angélique, in the last stage of dropsy, and seventy years old, still thought and acted for them, and dictated so able a letter to the QueenMother, that it was thought that it must have been composed by Singlin, and search was made for him.

At last they signed, with an explanation that it was entirely out of submission to the Holy See, for they were not qualified to judge. The pain and grief of thus acting proved too much for Jacqueline Pascal, and she died soon after of a broken heart. Mère Angélique was dying already, but cheered and comforted all around her to the last. She expired on the Feast of the Transfiguration, the 6th of August, 1661.

The Jesuits would not accept the explanation, but insisted that the formulary must be signed unconditionally without reservation, but pur et simple.

Again the nuns, with Mère Agnes at their head, were in distress and perplexity, but a respite was afforded them for a time. Cardinal de Retz was reconciled to the Court in 1662, on condition of his resigning the Archbishopric of Paris, and the various formalities that took place before Hardouin de Péréfixe could be legally confirmed as his successor, or begin to act, lasted two years.

In the meantime the French Bishops, headed by the saintly Pavillon, Bishop of Alet, made a strong remonstrance, but everything failed, and the new Archbishop finally broke up the two convents, and dispersed the nuns in different convents, where they remained under sentence of excommunication, treated as criminals, pining for the Sacraments they were deprived of, separated from the Sisters with whom they had spent their devout and beneficent lives, understanding little of the points of controversy, but ever staunchly loyal to St. Cyran, Singlin, and Sacy, their directors.

Here Louis was hardened by the Jesuits to whom he had surrendered his conscience, and who, it may be feared, condoned his pride and immorality for the sake of his support of what they took for the true Church. Bossuet sometimes preached strong truths, but with a considerable wrapping of conventional compliment, and in Lent, or before his Communions, his flagrant transgressions were discontinued for a time; but he never heard a real heart-searching reproof. And indeed compliment rose to a science in his time, not only in courtly verse or panegyric, but in ready speech. Walking at his country palace at Marly, it began to rain. Louis commiserated his companion, necessarily bare headed.

* Ah ! Sire,' was the answer, “the rain of Marly does not wet!'

Another courtier fell off a scaffolding during the building at Versailles. The King hoped he was not hurt.

Tout au contraire, Sire,' was the answer.

Much better and abler men than himself felt the strange power of this magnificent royal idol.

Even his cousins, Charles II. and James, Duke of York, who, though older men, felt his ascendancy of character, and their whole tone of morals and manners were tainted by those prevalent in the Court of France. Religious woman and anxious mother as Anne of Austria was, the unintelligent devotion in which she had bred up her son, did not avail or prevent the lax habits of the nobility from infecting him. The young Queen Marie Therèse was dull, halfeducated, and reserved, very little of a companion to him, and his affections had deserted her for Louise de la Vallière, a beautiful blueeyed girl of high rank, with religious feelings, which made her miserable even while yielding to the passion she felt for the handsome and charming young King. Her alternations of love and remorse are pitiably despicable to those of true judgment in these days, but they added at the time to Louis's sentiment for her. Charles had already loved and cast aside Lucy Watery, after she had become the mother of a son who was to become a misfortune to himself, and to many others, and his present favourite was Barbara Villiers, with whom he spent all his idle moments. She married a Mr. Palmer, who was created Lord Castlemaine to give her rank.

It was held, however, to be time that he should choose a queen, and the nation hoped it would be a Protestant, but the only such lady abroad whom he bad liked, Henrietta of Orange, had a mother who had affronted him in the days of his exile, and as to the German princesses, he said, . They are all dull and foggy; I cannot like any of them for a wife.'

Moreover, they were poor, and a rich dowry was almost a necessity to the impoverished Crown. Mademoiselle had despised him in his poverty, and was past her first youth. The daughters of Spain were disposed of; but Louis turned the attention of Charles towards Portugal.

The Crowns of the Peninsula had been united by Philip II., but the rule of Spain had been harsh and galling to the Portuguese, and in 1640, the Duke of Braganza, a descendant of the direct line, who had been set aside, had succeeded in establishing himself on the throne of the little kingdom, receiving support from all those Powers who rejoiced that Spain should not only have a thorn in her side, but

« AnteriorContinuar »