State of the Country. New Taxes. The King\

State of the Country. New Taxes. The King's Conscience Troubled

НазваниеState of the Country. New Taxes. The King's Conscience Troubled
Дата конвертации10.08.2012
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State of the Country.--New Taxes.--The King's Conscience Troubled.--

Decision of the Sorbonne.--Debate in the Council.--Effect of the Royal

Tithe.--Tax on Agioteurs.--Merriment at Court.--Death of a Son of

Marechal Boufflers.--The Jesuits.


My Interview with Du Mont.--A Mysterious Communication. --Anger of

Monseigneur against Me.--Household of the Duchesse de Berry.--Monseigneur

Taken Ill of the Smallpox.--Effect of the News.--The King Goes to

Meudon.--The Danger Diminishes.--Madame de Maintenon at Meudon.--The

Court at Versailles.--Hopes and Fears.--The Danger Returns.--Death of

Monseigneur.--Conduct of the King.


A Rumour Reaches Versailles.--Aspect of the Court.--Various Forms of

Grief.--The Duc d'Orleans.--The News Confirmed at Versailles.--Behaviour

of the Courtiers.--The Duc and Duchesse de Berry.--The Duc and Duchesse

de Bourgogne.--Madame.--A Swiss Asleep.--Picture of a Court.--The Heir-

Apparent's Night.--The King Returns to Marly.--Character of Monseigneur.

--Effect of His Death.


State of the Court at Death of Monseigneur.--Conduct of the Dauphin and

the Dauphine.--The Duchesse de Berry.--My Interview with the Dauphin.--

He is Reconciled with M. d'Orleans.


Warnings to the Dauphin and the Dauphine.--The Dauphine Sickens and

Dies.--Illness of the Dauphin.--His Death.--Character and Manners of the

Dauphine.--And of the Dauphin.


Certainty of Poison.--The Supposed Criminal.--Excitement of the People

against M. d'Orleans.--The Cabal.--My Danger and Escape.--The Dauphin's



Although, as we have just seen, matters were beginning to brighten a

little in Spain, they remained as dull and overcast as ever in France.

The impossibility of obtaining peace, and the exhaustion of the realm,

threw, the King into the most cruel anguish, and Desmarets into the

saddest embarrassment. The paper of ail kinds with which trade was

inundated, and which had all more or less lost credit, made a chaos for

which no remedy could be perceived.
State-bills, bank-bills, receiver-

general's-bills, title-bills, utensil-bills, were the ruin of private

people, who were forced by the King to take them in payment, and who lost

half, two-thirds, and sometimes more, by the transaction. This

depreciation enriched the money people, at the expense of the public; and

the circulation of money ceased, because there was no longer any money;

because the King no longer paid anybody, but drew his revenues still; and

because all the specie out of his control was locked up in the coffers of

the possessors.

The capitation tax was doubled and trebled, at the will of the Intendants

of the Provinces; merchandise and all kinds of provision were taxed to

the amount of four times their value; new taxes of all kinds and upon all

sorts of things were exacted; all this crushed nobles and roturiers,

lords and clergy, and yet did not bring enough to the King, who drew the

blood of all his subjects, squeezed out their very marrow, without

distinction, and who enriched an army of tax-gatherers and officials of

all kinds, in whose hands the best part of what was collected remained.

Desmarets, in whom the King had been forced to put all his confidence in

finance matters, conceived the idea of establishing, in addition to so

many taxes, that Royal Tithe upon all the property of each community and

of each private person of the realm, that the Marechal de Vauban, on the

one hand, and Boisguilbert on the other, had formerly proposed; but, as I

have already described, as a simple and stile tax which would suffice for

all, which would all enter the coffers of the King, and by means of which

every other impost would be abolished.

We have seen what success this proposition met with; how the fanciers

trembled at it; how the ministers blushed at it, with what anathemas it

was rejected, and to what extent these two excellent and skilful citizens

were disgraced. All this must be recollected here, since Desmarets, who

had not lost sight of this system (not as relief and remedy--unpardonable

crimes in the financial doctrine), now had recourse to it.

He imparted his project to three friends, Councillors of State, who

examined it well, and worked hard to see how to overcome the obstacles

which arose in the way of its execution. In the first place, it was

necessary, in order to collect this tax, to draw from each person a clear

statement of his wealth, of his debts, and so on. It was necessary to

demand sure proofs on these points so as not to be deceived. Here was

all the difficulty. Nothing was thought of the desolation this extra

impost must cause to a prodigious number of men, or of their despair upon

finding themselves obliged to disclose their family secrets; to hate a

lamp thrown, as it were, upon their most delicate parts; all these

things, I say, went for nothing. Less than a month sufficed these humane

commissioners to render an account of this gentle project to the Cyclops

who had charged them with it. Desmarets thereupon proposed it to the

King, who, accustomed as he was to the most ruinous imposts, could not

avoid being terrified at this. For a long while he had heard nothing

talked of but the most extreme misery; this increase saddened him in a

manner so evident, that his valets perceived it several days running, and

were so disturbed at it, that Marechal (who related all this curious

anecdote to me) made bold to speak to the King upon this sadness, fearing

for his health. The King avowed to him that he felt infinite trouble,

and threw himself vaguely upon the state of affairs. Eight or ten days.

after (during which he continued to feel the same melancholy), the King

regained his usual calmness, and called Marechal to explain the cause of

his trouble.

The King related to Marechal that the extremity of his affairs had forced

him to put on furious imposts; that setting aside compassion, scruples

had much tormented him for taking thus the wealth of his subjects; that

at last he had unbosomed himself to the Pere Tellier, who had asked for a

few days to think upon the matter, and that he had returned after having

had a consultation with some of the most skilful doctors of the Sorbonne,

who had decided that all the wealth of his subjects was his, and that

when he took it he only took what belonged to him! The King added, that

this decision had taken away all his scruples, and had restored to him

the calm and tranquillity he had lost. Marechal was so astonished, so

bewildered to hear, this recital, that he could not offer one word.

Happily for him, the King quitted him almost immediately, and Marechal

remained some time in the same place, scarcely knowing where he was.

After the King had been thus satisfied by his confessor, no time was lost

in establishing the tax. On Tuesday, the 30th of September, Desmarets

entered the Finance Council with the necessary edict in his bag.

For some days everybody had known of this bombshell in the air, and had

trembled with that remnant of hope which is founded only upon desire; all

the Court as well as all Paris waited in a dejected sadness to see what

would happen. People whispered to each other, and even when the project

was rendered public, no one dared to talk of it aloud.

On the day above-named, the King brought forward this measure in the

Council, by saying, that the impossibility of obtaining peace, and the

extreme difficulty of sustaining the war, had caused Desmarets to look

about in order to discover some means, which should appear good, of

raising money; that he had pitched upon this tax; that he (the King),

although sorry to adopt such a resource, approved it, and had no doubt

the Council would do so likewise, when it was explained to them.

Desmarets, in a pathetic discourse, then dwelt upon the reasons which had

induced him to propose this tax, and afterwards read the edict through

from beginning to end without interruption.

No one spoke, moreover, when it was over, until the King asked

D'Aguesseau his opinion. D'Aguesseau replied, that it would be necessary

for him to take home the edict and read it through very carefully before

expressing an opinion. The King said that D'Aguesseau was right--it

would take a long time to examine the edict--but after all, examination

was unnecessary, and would only be loss of time. All remained silent

again, except the Duc de Beauvilliers, who, seduced by the nephew of

Colbert, whom he thought an oracle in finance, said a few words in favour

of the project.

Thus was settled this bloody business, and immediately after signed,

sealed, and registered, among stifled sobs, and published amidst the most

gentle but most piteous complaints. The product of this tax was nothing

like so much as had been imagined in this bureau of Cannibals; and the

King did not pay a single farthing more to any one than he had previously

done. Thus all the fine relief expected by this tax ended in smoke.

The Marechal de Vauban had died of grief at the ill-success of his task

and his zeal, as I have related in its place. Poor Boisguilbert, in the

exile his zeal had brought him, was terribly afflicted, to find he had

innocently given advice which he intended for the relief of the State,

but which had been made use of in this frightful manner. Every man,

without exception, saw himself a prey to the tax-gatherers: reduced to

calculate and discuss with them his own patrimony, to receive their

signature and their protection under the most terrible pains; to show in

public all the secrets of his family; to bring into the broad open

daylight domestic turpitudes enveloped until then in the folds of

precautions the wisest and the most multiplied. Many had to convince the

tax agents, but vainly, that although proprietors, they did not enjoy the

tenth part of them property. All Languedoc offered to give up its entire

wealth, if allowed to enjoy, free from every impost, the tenth part of

it. The proposition not only was not listened to, but was reputed an

insult and severely blamed.

Monseigneur le Duc de Bourgogne spoke openly against this tax; and

against the finance people, who lived upon the very marrow of the people;

spoke with a just and holy anger that recalled the memory of Saint-Louis,

of Louis XII., Father of the People, and of Louis the Just. Monseigneur,

too, moved by this indignation, so unusual, of his son, sided with him,

and showed anger at so many exactions as injurious as barbarous, and at

so many insignificant men so monstrously enriched with the nation's

blood. Both father and son infinitely surprised those who heard them,

and made themselves looked upon, in some sort as resources from which

something might hereafter be hoped for. But the edict was issued, and

though there might be some hope in the future, there was none in the

present. And no one knew who was to be the real successor of Louis XIV.,

and how under the next government we were to be still more overwhelmed

than under this one.

One result of this tax was, that it enabled the King to augment all his

infantry with five men per company.

A tax was also levied upon the usurers, who had much gained by

trafficking in the paper of the King, that is to say, had taken advantage

of the need of those to whom the King gave this paper in payment. These

usurers are called 'agioteurs'. Their mode was, ordinarily, to give, for

example, according as the holder of paper was more or less pressed, three

or four hundred francs (the greater part often in provisions), for a bill

of a thousand francs! This game was called 'agio'. It was said that

thirty millions were obtained from this tax. Many people gained much by

it; I know not if the King was the better treated.

Soon after this the coin was re-coined, by which much profit was made for

the King, and much wrong done to private people and to trade. In all

times it has, been regarded as a very great misfortune to meddle with

corn and money. Desmarets has accustomed us to tricks with the money;

M. le Duc and Cardinal Fleury to interfere with corn and to fictitious


At the commencement of December, the King declared that he wished there

should be, contrary to custom, plays and "apartments" at Versailles even

when Monseigneur should be at Meudon. He thought apparently he must keep

his Court full of amusements, to hide, if it was possible, abroad and at

home, the disorder and the extremity of affairs. For the same reason,

the carnival was opened early this season, and all through the winter

there were many balls of all kinds at the Court, where the wives of the

ministers gave very magnificent displays, like fetes, to Madame la

Duchesse de Bourgogne and to all the Court.

But Paris did not remain less wretched or the provinces less desolated.

And thus I have arrived at the end of 1710.

At the commencement of the following year, 1711, that is to say, a few

days after the middle of March, a cruel misfortune happened to the

Marechal de Boufflers. His eldest son was fourteen years of age,

handsome, well made, of much promise, and who succeeded marvellously at

the Court, when his father presented him there to the King to thank his

Majesty for the reversion of the government of Flow and of Lille. He

returned afterwards to the College of the Jesuits, where he was being

educated. I know not what youthful folly he was guilty of with the two

sons of D'Argenson; but the Jesuits, wishing to show that they made no

distinction of persons, whipped the little lad, because, to say the

truth, they had nothing to fear from the Marechal de Boufflers; but they

took good care to left the others off, although equally guilty, because

they had to reckon with D'Argenson, lieutenant of the police, of much

credit in book matters, Jansenism, and all sorts of things and affairs in

which they were interested.

Little Boufflers, who was full of courage, and who had done no more than

the two Argensons, and with them, was seized with such despair, that he

fell ill that same day. He was carried to the Marechal's house, but it

was impossible to save him. The heart was seized, the blood diseased,

the purples appeared; in four days all was over. The state of the father

and mother may be imagined! The King, who was much touched by it, did

not let them ask or wait for him. He sent one of his gentlemen to

testify to them the share he had in their loss, and announced that he

would give to their remaining son 'what he had already given to the

other. As for the Jesuits, the universal cry against them was

prodigious; but that was all. This would be the place, now that I am

speaking of the Jesuits, to speak of another affair in which they were

concerned. But I pass over, for the present, the dissensions that broke

out at about this time, and that ultimately led to the famous Papal Bull

Unigenitus, so fatal to the Church and to the State, so shameful far

Rome, and so injurious to religion; and I proceed to speak of the great

event of this year which led to others so memorable and so unexpected.


But in Order to understand the part I played in the event I have alluded

to and the interest I took in it, it is necessary for me to relate some

personal matters that occurred in the previous year. Du Mont was one of

the confidants of Monseigneur; but also had never forgotten what his

father owed to mine. Some days after the commencement of the second

voyage to Marly, subsequently to the marriage of the Duchesse de Berry,

as I was coming back from the King's mass, the said Du Mont, in the crush

at the door of the little salon of the chapel, took an opportunity when

he was not perceived, to pull me by my coat, and when I turned round put

a finger to his lips, and pointed towards the gardens which are at the

bottom of the river, that is to say, of that superb cascade which the

Cardinal Fleury has destroyed, and which faced the rear of the chateau.

At the same time du Mont whispered in my car: "To the arbours!" That part

of the garden was surrounded with arbours palisaded so as to conceal what

was inside. It was the least frequented place at Marly, leading to

nothing; and in the afternoon even, and the evening, few people within


Uneasy to know what Du Mont wished to communicate with so much mystery,

I gently went towards the arbours where, without being seen, I looked

through one of the openings until I saw him appear. He slipped in by the

corner of the chapel, and I went towards him. As he joined me he begged

me to return towards the river, so as to be still more out of the way;

and then we set ourselves against the thickest palisades, as far as

possible from all openings, so as to be still more concealed. All this

surprised and frightened me: I was still more so when I learned what was

the matter.

Du Mont then told me, on condition that I promised not to show that I

knew it, and not to make use of my knowledge in any way without his

consent, that two days after the marriage of the Duc de Berry, having

entered towards the end of the morning the cabinet of Monseigneur, he

found him alone, looking very serious. He followed Monseigneur, through

the gardens alone, until he entered by the window the apartments of the

Princesse de Conti, who was also alone. As he entered Monseigneur said

with an air not natural to him, and very inflamed--as if by way of

interrogation--that she "sat very quietly there." This frightened her

so, that she asked if there was any news from Flanders, and what had

happened. Monseigneur answered, in a tone of great annoyance, that there

was no news except that the Duc de Saint-Simon had said, that now that

the marriage of the Duc de Berry was brought about, it would be proper to

drive away Madame la Duchesse and the Princesse de Conti, after which it

would be easy to govern "the great imbecile," meaning himself. This was

why he thought she ought not to be so much at her ease. Then, suddenly,

as if lashing his sides to get into a greater rage, he spoke in a way

such a speech would have deserved, added menaces, said that he would have

the Duc de Bourgogne to fear me, to put me aside, and separate himself

entirely from me. This sort of soliloquy lasted a long time, and I was

not told what the Princesse de Conti said to it; but from the silence of

Du Mont, her annoyance at the marriage, I had brought about, and other

reasons, it seems to me unlikely that she tried to soften Monseigneur.

Du Mont begged me not, for a long time at least, to show that I knew what

had taken place, and to behave with the utmost prudence. Then he fled

away by the path he had come by, fearing to be seen. I remained walking

up and down in the arbour all the time, reflecting on the wickedness of

my enemies, and the gross credulity of Monseigneur. Then I ran away, and

escaped to Madame de Saint-Simon, who, as astonished and frightened as I,

said not a word of the communication I had received.

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