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The Origins of Contemporary France, Volume 1 (of 6) - The Ancient Regime
by Hippolyte A. Taine
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[Footnote 1419: Nicolardot, "Journal de Louis XVI.," p. 228. Appropriations in the Red Book of 1774 to 1789: 227,985,716 livres, of which 80,000,000 are in acquisitions and gifts to the royal family.—Among others there are 14,600,000 to the Comte d'Artois and 14,450,000 to Monsieur.—7,726,253 are given to the Queen for Saint-Cloud.—8,70,000 for the acquisition of Ile-Adam.]

[Footnote 1420: Cf. "Compte general des revenus et depenses fixes au 1er Mai, 1789" (Imprimerie royale, 1789, in 4to). Estate of Ile-Dieu, acquired in 1783 of the Duc de Mortemart, 1,000,000; estate of Viviers, acquired of the Prince de Soubise in 1784, 1,500,000.—Estates of St. Priest and of St. Etienne, acquired in 1787 of M. Gilbert des Voisins, 1,335,935.—The forests of Camors and of Floranges, acquired of the Duc de Liancourt in 1785, 1,200,000.—The county of Montgommery, acquired of M. Clement de Basville in 1785, 3,306,604.]

[Footnote 1421: "Le President des Brosses," by Foisset. (Remonstrances to the king by the Parliament of Dijon, Jan. 19, 1764).]

[Footnote 1422: Lucas de Montigny, "Memoires de Mirabeau." Letter of the bailiff, May 26, 1781.—D'Argenson, "Memoires," VI. 156, 157, 160, 76; VI. p. 320.—Marshal Marmont, "Memoires," I. 9.—De Ferrieres, "Memoires," preface. See, on the difficulty in succeeding, the Memoirs of Dumourier. Chateaubriand's father is likewise one of the discontented, "a political frondeur, and very inimical to the court." (I. 206).—Records of the States-General of 1789, a general summary by Prud'homme, II. passim.]

[Footnote 1423: "Ephemerides du citoyen," II. 202, 203.—Voltaire, "Dictionnaire philosophique," article "Cure de Campagne."—Abbe Guettee, "Histoire de l'Eglise de France," XII. 130.]

[Footnote 1424: Those entitled to tithes in cereals.—TR.]

[Footnote 1425: A curate's salary at the present day (1875) is, at the minimum, 900 francs with a house and perquisites.]

[Footnote 1426: Theron de Montauge, "L'Agriculture les classes rurale, dans le pays Toulousain," p. 86.]

[Footnote 1427: Perin, "la Jeunesse de Robespierre," grievances of the rural parishes of Artois, p. 320.—Boivin-Champeaux, ibid.. pp. 65, 68.—Hippeau, ibid.. VI. p. 79, et VII. 177.—Letter of M. Sergent, curate of Vallers, January 27, 1790. (Archives nationales, DXIX. portfolio 24.) Letter of M. Briscard, curate of Beaumont-la-Roger, diocese of Evreux, December 19, 1789. (ibid.. DXIX. portfolio 6.) "Tableau moral du clerge de France" (1789), p. 2.]

[Footnote 1428: He who has the right of receiving the first year's income of a parish church after a vacancy caused by death.—TR.]

[Footnote 1429: One who performs masses for the dead at fixed epochs.—TR.]

[Footnote 1430: Grievances on the additional burdens which the Third-Estate have to support, by Gautier de Bianzat (1788), p 237.]

[Footnote 1431: Hippeau, ibid. VI. 164. (Letter of the Curate of Marolles and of thirteen others,. Letter of the bishop of Evreux, March 20, 1789. Letter of the abbe d'Osmond, April 2, 1789).—Archives nationales, manuscript documents (proces-verbeaux) of the States-General, V. 148. pp. 245-47. Registers of the curates of Toulouse, t. 150, p. 282, in the representations of the Dijon chapter.]

[Footnote 1432: De Toqueville, book II. This capital truth as been established by M. de Tocqueville with superior discernment.]

[Footnote 1433: A term indicating a certain division of the kingdom of France to facilitate the collection of taxes. Each generalship was subdivided into elections, in which there was a tribunal called the bureau of finances. (TR.)]

[Footnote 1434: Remonstrances of Malesherbes; Registers by Turgot and Necker to the king, (Laboulaye, "De l'administration francaise sous Louis XVI, Revue des cours litteraires, IV. 423, 759, 814.)]

[Footnote 1435: Financiers have been known to tell citizens: "The ferme ( revenue-agency) ought to be able to grant you favors, you ought to be forced to come and ask for them.—He who pays never knows what he owes. The fermier is sovereign legislator in matters relating to his personal interest. Every petition, in which the interests of a province, or those of the whole nation are concerned, is regarded as penal foolhardiness if it is signed by a person in his private capacity, and as illicit association if it be signed by several." Malesherbes, ibid..]

[Footnote 1436: Mme. Campan, "Memoires," I. p. 13.—Mme. du Hausset, "Memoires," p. 114.]

[Footnote 1437: "Gustave III. et la cour de France," by Geffroy. II. 474. ("Archives de Dresde," French Correspondence, November 20, 1788.)]

[Footnote 1438: Augeard, "Memoires," p. 135.]

[Footnote 1439: Mme. de Pompadour, writing to Marshal d'Estrees, in the army, about the campaign operations, and tracing for him a sort of plan, had marked on the paper with mouches (face-patches), the different places which she advised him to attack or defend." Mme. de Genlis, "Souvenirs de Felicie," p. 329. Narrative by Mme. de Puisieux, the mother-in-law of Marshal d'Estrees.]

[Footnote 1440: According to the manuscript register of Mme. de Pompadour's expenses, in the archives of the prefecture of Versailles, she had expended 36,327,268 livres. (Granier de Cassagnac, I. 91.)]

[Footnote 1441: D'Argenson, "Memoires," VI. 398 (April 24, 1751).—"M. du Barry declared openly that he had consumed 18,000,000 belonging to the State." (Correspondence by Metra, I. 27).]

[Footnote 1442: "Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy, vol. II. p. 168 (June 5, 1774).]

[Footnote 1443: "Marie Antoinette," ibid.. vol. II. p. 377; vol. III. p. 391.]

[Footnote 1444: Archives nationales, H, 1456, Memoir for M. Bouret de Vezelay, syndic for the creditors.]

[Footnote 1445: Marquis de Mirabeau, "Traite de la population," p. 81.]

[Footnote 1446: Today, our so-called popular democracies have become completely irresponsible since the elected, who have full access to the coffers of the nation, present and future, and who, through alternation and short duration of tenure, are encouraged to become irresponsible, will use large amounts to be favorably exposed in the media and to avoid any kind of mudslinging. They seem to govern their countries according to the devise: "After me the deluge." (SR.)]

[Footnote 1447: Lord, in Old Saxon, signifies "he who provides food;" seignior, in the Latin of the middle ages, signifies "the ancient," the head or chief of the flock.]

[Footnote 1448: Around 1780. (SR.)]



BOOK SECOND. MORALS AND CHARACTERS.



CHAPTER I. MORAL PRINCIPLES UNDER THE ANCIENT REGIME.



The Court and a life of pomp and parade.

A military staff on furlough for a century and more, around a commander-in-chief who gives fashionable entertainment, is the principle and summary of the habits of society under the ancient regime. Hence, if we seek to comprehend them we must first study them at their center and their source, that is to say, in the court itself. Like the whole ancient regime the court is the empty form, the surviving adornment of a military institution, the causes of which have disappeared while the effects remain, custom surviving utility. Formerly, in the early times of feudalism, in the companionship and simplicity of the camp and the castle, the nobles served the king with their own hands. One providing for his house, another bringing a dish to his table, another disrobing him at night, and another looking after his falcons and horses. Still later, under Richelieu and during the Fronde,[2101] amid the sudden attacks and the rude exigencies of constant danger they constitute the garrison of his lodgings, forming an armed escort for him, and a retinue of ever-ready swordsmen. Now as formerly they are equally assiduous around his person, wearing their swords, awaiting a word, and eager to his bidding, while those of highest rank seemingly perform domestic service in his household. Pompous parade, however, has been substituted for efficient service; they are elegant adornments only and no longer useful tools; they act along with the king who is himself an actor, their persons serving as royal decoration.



I. Versailles.



The Physical aspect and the moral character of Versailles.

It must be admitted that the decoration is successful, and, that since the fetes of the Italian Renaissance, more magnificent displays have not been seen. Let us follow the file of carriages which, from Paris to Versailles, rolls steadily along like a river. Certain horses called "des enrages," fed in a particular way, go and come in three hours.[2102] One feels, at the first glance, as if he were in a city of a particular stamp, suddenly erected and at one stroke, like a prize-medal for a special purpose, of which only one is made, its form being a thing apart, as well as its origin and use. In vain is it one of the largest cities of the kingdom, with its population of 80,000 souls;[2103] it is filled, peopled, and occupied by the life of a single man; it is simply a royal residence, arranged entirely to provide for the wants, the pleasures, the service, the guardianship, the society, the display of a king. Here and there, in corners and around it, are inns, stalls, taverns, hovels for laborers and for drudges, for dilapidated soldiers and accessory menials. These tenements necessarily exist, since technicians are essential to the most magnificent apotheosis. The rest, however, consists of sumptuous hotels and edifices, sculptured facades, cornices and balustrades, monumental stairways, seigniorial architecture, regularly spaced and disposed, as in a procession, around the vast and grandiose palace where all this terminates. Here are the fixed abodes of the noblest families; to the right of the palace are the hotels de Bourbon, d'Ecquervilly, de la Tremoille, de Conde, de Maurepas, de Bouillon, d'Eu, de Noailles, de Penthievre, de Livry, du Comte de la Marche, de Broglie, du Prince de Tingry, d'Orleans, de Chatillon, de Villerry, d'Harcourt, de Monaco; on the left are the pavilions d'Orleans, d'Harcourt, the hotels de Chevreuse, de Babelle, de l'Hopital, d'Antin, de Dangeau, de Pontchartrain—no end to their enumeration. Add to these those of Paris, all those which, ten leagues around. At Sceaux, at Genevilliers, at Brunoy, at Ile-Adam, at Rancy, at Saint-Ouen, at Colombes, at Saint-Germain, at Marly, at Bellevue, in countless places, they form a crown of architectural flowers, from which daily issue as many gilded wasps to shine and buzz about Versailles, the center of all luster and affluence. About a hundred of these are "presented each year, men and women, which makes about 2 or 3,000 in all;[2104] this forms the king's society, the ladies who courtesy before him, and the seigniors who accompany him in his carriage; their hotels are near by, or within reach, ready to fill his drawing room or his antechamber at all hours.

A drawing room like this calls for proportionate dependencies; the hotels and buildings at Versailles devoted to the private service of the king and his attendants count by hundreds. No human existence since that of the Caesars has so spread itself out in the sunshine. In the Rue des Reservoirs we have the old hotel and the new one of the governor of Versailles, the hotel of the tutor to the children of the Comte d'Artois, the ward-robe of the crown, the building for the dressing-rooms and green-rooms of the actors who perform at the palace, with the stables belonging to Monsieur.—In the Rue des Bon-Enfants are the hotel of the keeper of the wardrobe, the lodgings for the fountain-men, the hotel of the officers of the Comtesse de Provence. In the Rue de la Pompe, the hotel of the grand-provost, the Duke of Orleans's stables, the hotel of the Comte d'Artois's guardsmen, the queen's stables, the pavilion des Sources.—In the Rue Satory the Comtesse d'Artois's stables, Monsieur's English garden, the king's ice-houses, the riding-hall of the king's light-horse-guards, the garden belonging to the hotel of the treasurers of the buildings.—Judge of other streets by these four. One cannot take a hundred steps without encountering some accessory of the palace: the hotel of the staff of the body-guard, the hotel of the staff of light-horse-guards, the immense hotel of the body-guard itself, the hotel of the gendarmes of the guard, the hotel of the grand wolf-huntsman, of the grand falconer, of the grand huntsman, of the grand-master, of the commandant of the canal, of the comptroller-general, of the superintendent of the buildings, and of the chancellor; buildings devoted to falconry, and the vol de cabinet, to boar-hunting, to the grand kennel, to the dauphin kennel, to the kennel for untrained dogs, to the court carriages, to shops and storehouses connected with amusements, to the great stable and the little stables, to other stables in the Rue de Limoges, in the Rue Royale, and in the Avenue Saint-Cloud; to the king's vegetable garden, comprising twenty-nine gardens and four terraces; to the great dwelling occupied by 2,000 persons, with other tenements called "Louises" in which the king assigned temporary or permanent lodgings,—words on paper render no physical impression of the physical enormity.—At the present day nothing remains of this old Versailles, mutilated and appropriated to other uses, but fragments, which, nevertheless, one should go and see. Observe those three avenues meeting in the great square. Two hundred and forty feet broad and twenty-four hundred long, and not too large for the gathering crowds, the display, the blinding velocity of the escorts in full speed and of the carriages running "at death's door."[2105] Observe the two stables facing the chateau with their railings one hundred and ninety-two feet long. In 1682 they cost three millions, that is to say, fifteen millions to day. They are so ample and beautiful that, even under Louis XIV himself, they sometimes served as a cavalcade circus for the princes, sometimes as a theater, and sometimes as a ball-room. Then let the eye follow the development of the gigantic semi-circular square which, from railing to railing and from court to court, ascends and slowly decreases, at first between the hotels of the ministers and then between the two colossal wings, terminating in the ostentatious frame of the marble court where pilasters, statues, pediments, and multiplied and accumulated ornaments, story above story, carry the majestic regularity of their lines and the overcharged mass of their decoration up to the sky. According to a bound manuscript bearing the arms of Mansart, the palace cost 153 million, that is to say, about 750 million francs of to day;[2106] when a king aims at imposing display this is the cost of his lodging. Now turn the eye to the other side, towards the gardens, and this self-display becomes the more impressive. The parterres and the park are, again, a drawing room in the open air. There is nothing natural of nature here; she is put in order and rectified wholly with a view to society; this is no place to be alone and to relax oneself, but a place for promenades and the exchange of polite salutations. Those formal groves are walls and hangings; those shaven yews are vases and lyres. The parterres are flowering carpets. In those straight, rectilinear avenues the king, with his cane in his hand, groups around him his entire retinue. Sixty ladies in brocade dresses, expanding into skirts measuring twenty-four feet in circumference, easily find room on the steps of the staircases.[2107] Those verdant cabinets afford shade for a princely collation. Under that circular portico, all the seigniors enjoying the privilege of entering it witness together the play of a new jet d'eau. Their counterparts greet them even in the marble and bronze figures which people the paths and basins, in the dignified face of an Apollo, in the theatrical air of a Jupiter, in the worldly ease or studied nonchalance of a Diana or a Venus. The stamp of the court, deepened through the joint efforts of society for a century, is so strong that it is graven on each detail as on the whole, and on material objects as on matters of the intellect.



II. The King's Household.

Its officials and expenses.—His military family, his stable, kennel, chapel, attendants, table, chamber, wardrobe, outhouses, furniture, journeys.

The foregoing is but the framework; before 1789 it was completely filled up. "You have seen nothing," says Chateaubriand, "if you have not seen the pomp of Versailles, even after the disbanding of the king's household; Louis XIV was always there."[2108] It is a swarm of liveries, uniforms, costumes and equipages as brilliant and as varied as in a picture. I should be glad to have lived eight days in this society. It was made expressly to be painted, being specially designed for the pleasure of the eye, like an operatic scene. But how can we of to day imagine people for whom life was wholly operatic? At that time a grandee was obliged to live in great state; his retinue and his trappings formed a part of his personality; he fails in doing himself justice if these are not as ample and as splendid as he can make them; he would be as much mortified at any blank in his household as we with a hole in our coats. Should he make any curtailment he would decline in reputation; on Louis XVI undertaking reforms the court says that he acts like a bourgeois. When a prince or princess becomes of age a household is formed for them; when a prince marries, a household is formed for his wife; and by a household it must be understood that it is a pompous display of fifteen or twenty distinct services: stables, a hunting-train, a chapel, a surgery, the bedchamber and the wardrobe, a chamber for accounts, a table, pantry, kitchen, and wine-cellars, a fruitery, a fourriere, a common kitchen, a cabinet, a council;[2109] she would feel that she was not a princess without all this. There are 274 appointments in the household of the Duc d'Orleans, 210 in that of Mesdames, 68 in that of Madame Elisabeth, 239 in that of the Comtesse d'Artois, 256 in that of the Comtesse de Provence, and 496 in that of the Queen. When the formation of a household for Madame Royale, one month old, is necessary, "the queen," writes the Austrian ambassador, "desires to suppress a baneful indolence, a useless affluence of attendants, and every practice tending to give birth to sentiments of pride. In spite of the said retrenchment the household of the young princess is to consist of nearly eighty persons destined to the sole service of her Royal Highness."[2110] The civil household of Monsieur comprises 420 appointments, his military household, 179; that of the Comte d'Artois 237 and his civil household 456.—Three-fourths of them are for display; with their embroideries and laces, their unembarrassed and polite expression, their attentive and discreet air, their easy way of saluting, walking and smiling, they appear well in an antechamber, placed in lines, or scattered in groups in a gallery; I should have liked to contemplate even the stable and kitchen array, the figures filling up the background of the picture. By these stars of inferior magnitude we may judge of the splendor of the royal sun.

The king must have guards, infantry, cavalry, body-guards, French guardsmen, Swiss guardsmen, Cent Suisses, light-horse guards, gendarmes of the guard, gate-guardsmen, in all, 9,050 men,[2111] costing annually 7,681,000 livres. Four companies of the French guard, and two of the Swiss guard, parade every day in the court of the ministers between the two railings, and when the king issues in his carriage to go to Paris or Fontainebleau the spectacle is magnificent. Four trumpeters in front and four behind, the Swiss guards on one side and the French guards on the other, form a line as far as it can reach.[2112] The Cent Suisses march ahead of the horsemen in the costume of the sixteenth century, wearing the halberd, ruff, plumed hat, and the ample parti-colored striped doublet; alongside of these are the provost-guard with scarlet facings and gold frogs, and companies of yeomanry bristling with gold and silver. The officers of the various corps, the trumpeters and the musicians, covered with gold and silver lace, are dazzling to look at; the kettledrum suspended at the saddle-bow, overcharged with painted and gilded ornaments, is a curiosity for a glass case; the Negro cymbal-player of the French guards resembles the sultan of a fairy-tale. Behind the carriage and alongside of it trot the body-guards, with sword and carbine, wearing red breeches, high black boots, and a blue coat sewn with white embroidery, all of them unquestionable gentlemen; there were twelve hundred of these selected among the nobles and according to size; among them are the guards de la manche, still more intimate, who at church and on ceremonial occasions, in white doublets starred with silver and gold spangles, holding their damascene partisans in their hands, always remain standing and turned towards the king "so as to see his person from all sides." Thus is his protection ensured. Being a gentleman the king is a cavalier, and he must have a suitable stable,[2113] 1,857 horses, 217 vehicles, 1,458 men whom he clothes, the liveries costing 540,000 francs a year; besides these there were 20 tutors and sub-tutors, almoners, professors, cooks, and valets to govern, educate and serve the pages; and again about thirty physicians, apothecaries, nurses for the sick, intendants, treasurers, workmen, and licensed and paid merchants for the accessories of the service; in all more than 1,500 men. Horses to the amount of 250,000 francs are purchased yearly, and there are stock-stables in Limousin and in Normandy to draw on for supplies. 287 horses are exercised daily in the two riding-halls; there are 443 saddle-horses in the small stable, 437 in the large one, and these are not sufficient for the "vivacity of the service." The whole cost 4,600,000 livres in 1775, which sum reaches 6,200,000 livres in 1787.[2114] Still another spectacle should be seen with one's own eyes,—the pages,[2115] the grooms, the laced pupils, the silver-button pupils, the boys of the little livery in silk, the instrumentalists and the mounted messengers of the stable. The use of the horse is a feudal art; no luxury is more natural to a man of quality. Think of the stables at Chantilly, which are palaces. To convey an idea of a well-educated and genteel man he was then called an accomplished cavalier;" in fact his importance was fully manifest only when he was in the saddle, on a blood-horse like himself.—Another genteel taste, an effect of the preceding, is the chase. It costs the king from 1,100,000 to 1,200,000 livres a year, and requires 280 horses besides those of the two stables. A more varied or more complete equipment could not be imagined: a pack of hounds for the boar, another for the wolf another for the roe-buck, a cast (of hawks) for the crow, a cast for the magpie, a cast for merlins, a cast for hares, a cast for the fields. In 1783, 179,194 livres are expended for feeding horses, and 53,412 livres for feeding dogs.[2116] The entire territory, ten leagues around Paris, is a game-preserve; "not a gun could be fired there;[2117] accordingly the plains are seen covered with partridges accustomed to man, quietly picking up the grain and never stirring as he passes." Add to this the princes' captaincies, extending as far as Villers-Cotterets and Orleans; these form an almost continuous circle around Paris, thirty leagues in circumference, where game, protected, replaced and multiplied, swarms for the pleasure of the king. The park of Versailles alone forms an enclosure of more than ten leagues. The forest of Rambouillet embraces 25,000 arpents (30,000 acres). Herds of seventy-five and eighty stags are encountered around Fontainebleau. No true hunter could read the minute-book of the chase without feeling an impulse of envy. The wolf-hounds run twice a week, and they take forty wolves a year. Between 1743 and 1744 Louis XV runs down 6,400 stags. Louis XVI writes, August 30th, 1781: "Killed 460 head to day." In 1780 he brings down 20,534 head; in 1781, 20,291; in fourteen years, 189,251 head, besides 1,254 stags, while boars and bucks are proportionate; and it must be noted that this is all done by his own hand, since his parks approach his houses.—Such, in fine, is the character of a "well-appointed household," that is to say, provided with its dependencies and services. Everything is within reach; it is a complete world in itself and self-sufficient. One exalted being attaches to and gathers around it, with universal foresight and minuteness of detail, every appurtenance it employs or can possibly employ.—Thus, each prince, each princess has a professional surgery and a chapel;[2118] it would not answer for the almoner who says mass or the doctor who looks after their health to be obtained outside. So much stronger is the reason that the king should have ministrants of this stamp; his chapel embraces seventy-five almoners, chaplains, confessors, masters of the oratory, clerks, announcers, carpet-bearers, choristers, copyists, and composers of sacred music; his faculty is composed of forty-eight physicians, surgeons, apothecaries, oculists, operators, bone-setters, distillers, chiropodists and spagyrists (a species of alchemists). We must still note his department of profane music, consisting of one hundred and twenty-eight vocalists, dancers, instrumentalists, directors and superintendents; his library corps of forty-three keepers, readers, interpreters, engravers, medallists, geographers, binders and printers; the staff of ceremonial display, sixty-two heralds, sword-bearers, ushers and musicians; the staff of housekeepers, consisting of sixty-eight marshals, guides and commissaries. I omit other services in haste to reach the most important,—that of the table; a fine house and good housekeeping being known by the table.

There are three sections of the table service;[2119] the first for the king and his younger children; the second, called the little ordinary, for the table of the grand-master, the grand-chamberlain and the princes and princesses living with the king; the third, called the great ordinary, for the grand-master's second table, that of the butlers of the king's household, the almoners, the gentlemen in waiting, and that of the valets-de-chambre, in all three hundred and eighty-three officers of the table and one hundred and three waiters, at an expense of 2,177,771 livres; besides this there are 389,173 livres appropriated to the table of Madame Elisabeth, and 1,093,547 livres for that of Mesdames, the total being 3,660,491 livres for the table. The wine-merchant furnished wine to the amount of 300,000 francs per annum, and the purveyor game, meat and fish at a cost of 1,000,000 livres. Only to fetch water from Ville-d'Avray, and to convey servants, waiters and provisions, required fifty horses hired at the rate of 70,591 francs per annum. The privilege of the royal princes and princesses "to send to the bureau for fish on fast days when not residing regularly at the court," amounts in 1778 to 175,116 livres. On reading in the Almanach the titles of these officials we see a Gargantua's feast spread out before us. The formal hierarchy of the kitchens, so many grand officials of the table,—the butlers, comptrollers and comptroller-pupils, the clerks and gentlemen of the pantry, the cup-bearers and carvers, the officers and equerries of the kitchen, the chiefs, assistants and head-cooks, the ordinary scullions, turnspits and cellarers, the common gardeners and salad gardeners, laundry servants, pastry-cooks, plate-changers, table-setters, crockery-keepers, and broach-bearers, the butler of the table of the head-butler,—an entire procession of broad-braided backs and imposing round bellies, with grave countenances, which, with order and conviction, exercise their functions before the saucepans and around the buffets.

One step more and we enter the sanctuary, the king's apartment. Two principal dignitaries preside over this, and each has under him about a hundred subordinates. On one side is the grand chamberlain with his first gentlemen of the bedchamber, the pages of the bedchamber, their governors and instructors, the ushers of the antechamber, with the four first valets-de-chambre in ordinary, sixteen special valets serving in turn, his regular and special cloak-bearers, his barbers, upholsterers, watch-menders, waiters and porters; on the other hand is the grand-master of the wardrobe, with the masters of the wardrobe and the valets of the wardrobe regular and special, the ordinary trunk-carriers, mail-bearers, tailors, laundry servants, starchers, and common waiters, with the gentlemen, officers and secretaries in ordinary of the cabinet, in all 198 persons for domestic service, like 50 many domestic utensils for every personal want, or as sumptuous pieces of furniture for the decoration of the apartment. Some of them fetch the mall and the balls, others hold the mantle and cane, others comb the king's hair and dry him off after a bath, others drive the mules which transport his bed, others watch his pet greyhounds in his room, others fold, put on and tie his cravat, and others fetch and carry off his easy chair.[2120] Some there are whose sole business it is to fill a corner which must not be left empty. Certainly, with respect to ease of deportment and appearance these are the most conspicuous of all; being so close to the master they are under obligation to appear well; in such proximity their bearing must not create a discord.—Such is the king's household, and I have only described one of his residences; he has a dozen of them besides Versailles, great and small, Marly, the two Trianons, la Muette, Meudon, Choisy, Saint-Hubert, Saint-Germain, Fontainebleau, Compiegne, Saint-Cloud, Rambouillet,[2121] without counting the Louvre, the Tuileries and Chambord, with their parks and hunting-grounds, their governors, inspectors, comptrollers, concierges, fountain tenders, gardeners, sweepers, scrubbers, mole-catchers, wood-rangers, mounted and foot-guards, in all more than a thousand persons. Naturally he entertains, plans and builds, and, in this way expends 3 or 4 millions per annum.[2122] Naturally, also, he repairs and renews his furniture; in 1778, which is an average year, this costs him 1,936,853 livres. Naturally, also, he takes his guests along with him and defrays their expenses, they and their attendants; at Choisy, in 1780, there are sixteen tables with 345 seats besides the distributions; at Saint-Cloud, in 1785, there are twenty-six tables; "an excursion to Marly of twenty-one days is a matter of 120,000 livres extra expense;" the excursion to Fontainebleau has cost as much as 400,000 and 500,000 livres. His removals, on the average, cost half a million and more per annum.[2123]—To complete our idea of this immense paraphernalia it must be borne in mind that the artisans and merchants belonging to these various official bodies are obliged; through the privileges they enjoy, to follow the court "on its journeys that it may be provided on the spot with apothecaries, armorers, gunsmiths, sellers of silken and woollen hosiery, butchers, bakers, embroiderers, publicans, cobblers, belt-makers, candle-makers, hatters, pork-dealers, surgeons, shoemakers, curriers, cooks, pinkers, gilders and engravers, spur-makers, sweetmeat-dealers, furbishers, old-clothes brokers, glove-perfumers, watchmakers, booksellers, linen-drapers, wholesale and retail wine-dealers, carpenters, coarse-jewelry haberdashers, jewellers, parchment-makers, dealers in trimmings, chicken-roasters, fish-dealers, purveyors of hay, straw and oats, hardware-sellers, saddlers, tailors, gingerbread and starch-dealers, fruiterers, dealers in glass and in violins."[2124] One might call it an oriental court which, to be set in motion, moves an entire world: "when it is to move one must, if one wants to travel anywhere, take the post in well in advance." The total is near 4,000 persons for the king's civil household, 9,000 to 10,000 for his military household, at least 2,000 for those of his relatives, in all 15,000 individuals, at a cost of between forty and fifty million livres, which would be equal to double the amount to day, and which, at that time, constituted one-tenth of the public revenue.[2125] We have here the central figure of the monarchical show. However grand and costly it may be, it is only proportionate to its purpose, since the court is a public institution, and the aristocracy, with nothing to do, devotes itself to filling up the king's drawing-room.



III. The King's Associates.

The society of the king.—Officers of the household. —Invited guests.

Two causes maintain this affluence, one the feudal form still preserved, and the other the new centralization just introduced; one placing the royal service in the hands of the nobles, and the other converting the nobles into place-hunters.—Through the duties of the palace the highest nobility live with the king, residing under his roof; the grand-almoner is M. de Montmorency-Laval, bishop of Metz; the first almoner is M. de Bussuejouls, bishop of Senlis; the grand-master of France is the Prince de Conde; the first royal butier is the Comte d'Escars; the second is the Marquis de Montdragon; the master of the pantry is the Duke de Brissac; the chief cup-bearer is the Marquis de Vemeuil; the chief carver is the Marquis de la Chesnaye; the first gentlemen of the bedchamber are the Ducs de Richelieu, de Durfort, de Villequier, and de Fleury; the grand-master of the wardrobe is the Duc de la Rochefoucauld-Liancourt; the masters of the wardrobe are the Comte de Boisgelin and the Marquis de Chauvelin. The captain of the falconry is the Chevalier du Forget; the captain of the boar-hunt is the Marquis d'Ecquevilly; the superintendent of edifices is the Comte d'Angevillier; the grand-equerry is the Prince de Lambesc; the master of the hounds is the Duc de Penthievre; the grand-master of ceremonies is the Marquis de Breze; the grand-master of the household is the Marquis de la Suze; the captains of the guards are the Ducs d'Agen, de Villery, de Brissac, d'Aguillon, and de Biron, the Princes de Poix, de Luxembourg and de Soubise. The provost of the hotel is the Marquis de Tourzel; the governors of the residences and captains of the chase are the Duc de Noailles, Marquis de Champcenetz, Baron de Champlost, Duc de Coigny, Comte de Modena, Comte de Montmorin, Duc de Laval, Comte de Brienne, Duc d'Orleans, and the Duc de Gesvres.[2126] All these seigniors are the king's necessary intimates, his permanent and generally hereditary guests, dwelling under his roof; in close and daily intercourse with him, for they are "his folks" (gens)[2127] and perform domestic service about his person. Add to these their equals, as noble and nearly as numerous, dwelling with the queen, with Mesdames, with Mme. Elisabeth, with the Comte and Comtesse de Provence and the Comte and Comtesse d'Artois.—And these are only the heads of the service; if; below them in rank and office, I count the titular nobles, I find, among others, 68 almoners or chaplains, 170 gentlemen of the bedchamber or in waiting, 117 gentlemen of the stable or of the hunting-train, 148 pages, 114 titled ladies in waiting, besides all the officers, even to the lowest of the military household, without counting 1,400 ordinary guards who, verified by the genealogist, are admitted by virtue of their title to pay their court.[2128] Such is the fixed body of recruits for the royal receptions; the distinctive trait of this regime is the conversion of its servants into guests, the drawing room being filled from the anteroom.

Not that the drawing room needs all that to be filled. Being the source of all preferment and of every favor, it is natural that it should overflow[2129]. It is the same in our leveling society (in 1875), where the drawing room of an insignificant deputy, a mediocre journalist, or a fashionable woman, is full of courtiers under the name of friends and visitors. Moreover, here, to be present is an obligation; it might be called a continuation of ancient feudal homage; the staff of nobles is maintained as the retinue of its born general. In the language of the day, it is called "paying one's duty to the king." Absence, in the sovereign's eyes, would be a sign of independence as well as of indifference, while submission as well as regular attention is his due. In this respect we must study the institution from the beginning. The eyes of Louis XIV go their rounds at every moment, "on arising or retiring, on passing into his apartments, in his gardens,. . . nobody escapes, even those who hoped they were not seen; it was a demerit with some, and the most distinguished, not to make the court their ordinary sojourn, to others to come to it but seldom, and certain disgrace to those who never, or nearly never, came."[2130] Henceforth, the main thing, for the first personages in the kingdom, men and women, ecclesiastics and laymen, the grand affair, the first duty in life, the true occupation, is to be at all hours and in every place under the king's eye, within reach of his voice and of his glance. "Whoever," says La Bruyere, "considers that the king's countenance is the courtier's supreme felicity, that he passes his life looking on it and within sight of it, will comprehend to some extent how to see God constitutes the glory and happiness of the saints." There were at this time prodigies of voluntary assiduity and subjection. The Duc de Fronsac, every morning at seven o'clock, in winter and in summer, stationed himself, at his father's command, at the foot of the small stairway leading to the chapel, solely to shake hands with Mme. de Maintenon on her leaving for St. Cyr.[2131] "Pardon me, Madame," writes the Duc de Richelieu to her, "the great liberty I take in presuming to send you the letter which I have written to the king, begging him on my knees that he will occasionally allow me to pay my court to him at Ruel, for I would rather die than pass two months without seeing him." The true courtier follows the prince as a shadow follows its body; such, under Louis XIV, was the Duc de la Rochefoucauld, the master of the hounds. "He never missed the king's rising or retiring, both changes of dress every day, the hunts and the promenades, likewise every day, for ten years in succession, never sleeping away from the place where the king rested, and yet on a footing to demand leave, but not to stay away all night, for he had not slept out of Paris once in forty years, but to go and dine away from the court, and not be present on the promenade."—If; later, and under less exacting masters, and in the general laxity of the eighteenth century, this discipline is relaxed, the institution nevertheless subsists;[2132] in default of obedience, tradition, interest and amour-propre suffice for the people of the court. To approach the king, to be a domestic in his household, an usher, a cloak-bearer, a valet, is a privilege that is purchased, even in 1789, for thirty, forty, and a hundred thousand livres; so much greater the reason why it is a privilege to form a part of his society, the most honorable, the most useful, and the most coveted of all.—In the first place, it is a proof of noble birth. A man, to follow the king in the chase, and a woman, to be presented to the queen, must previously satisfy the genealogist, and by authentic documents, that his or her nobility goes back to the year 1400.—In the next place, it ensures good fortune. This drawing room is the only place within reach of royal favors; accordingly, up to 1789, the great families never stir away from Versailles, and day and night they lie in ambush. The valet of the Marshal de Noaillles says to him one night on closing his curtains,

"At what hour will Monseigneur be awakened?" "At ten o'clock, if no one dies during the night."[2133]

Old courtiers are still found who, "at the age of eighty, have passed forty-five on their feet in the antechambers of the king, of the princes, and of the ministers. . .

"You have only three things to do," says one of them to a debutant, "speak well of everybody, ask for every vacancy, and sit down when you can."

Hence, the king always has a crowd around him. The Comtesse du Barry says, on presenting her niece at court, the first of August, 1773, "the crowd is so great at a presentation, one can scarcely get through the antechambers."[2134] In December, 1774, at Fontainebleau, when the queen plays at her own table every evening, "the apartment, though vast, is never empty. . . . The crowd is so great that one can talk only to the two or three persons with whom one is playing." The fourteen apartments, at the receptions of ambassadors are full to overflowing with seigniors and richly dressed women. On the first of January, 1775, the queen "counted over two hundred ladies presented to her to pay their court." In 1780, at Choisy, a table for thirty persons is spread every day for the king, another with thirty places for the seigniors, another with forty places for the officers of the guard and the equerries, and one with fifty for the officers of the bedchamber. According to my estimate, the king, on getting up and on retiring, on his walks, on his hunts, at play, has always around him at least forty or fifty seigniors and generally a hundred, with as many ladies, besides his attendants on duty. At Fontainebleau, in 1756, although "there were neither fetes nor ballets this year, one hundred and six ladies were counted." When the king holds a "grand apartement," when play or dancing takes place in the gallery of mirrors, four or five hundred guests, the elect of the nobles and of the fashion, range themselves on the benches or gather around the card and cavanole tables.[2135] This is a spectacle to be seen, not by the imagination, or through imperfect records, but with our own eyes and on the spot, to comprehend the spirit, the effect and the triumph of monarchical culture. In an elegantly furnished house, the drawing room is the principal room; and never was one more dazzling than this. Suspended from the sculptured ceiling peopled with sporting cupids, descend, by garlands of flowers and foliage, blazing chandeliers, whose splendor is enhanced by the tail mirrors; the light streams down in floods on gilding, diamonds, and beaming, arch physiognomies, on fine busts, and on the capacious, sparkling and garlanded dresses. The skirts of the ladies ranged in a circle, or in tiers on the benches, "form a rich espalier covered with pearls, gold, silver, jewels, spangles, flowers and fruits, with their artificial blossoms, gooseberries, cherries, and strawberries," a gigantic animated bouquet of which the eye can scarcely support the brilliancy. There are no black coats, as nowadays, to disturb the harmony. With the hair powdered and dressed, with buckles and knots, with cravats and ruffles of lace, in silk coats and vests of the hues of fallen leaves, or of a delicate rose tint, or of celestial blue, embellished with gold braid and embroidery, the men are as elegant as the women. Men and women, each is a selection; they all are of the accomplished class, gifted with every grace which good blood, education, fortune, leisure and custom can bestow; they are perfect of their kind. There is no toilet, no carriage of the head, no tone of the voice, no expression in language which is not a masterpiece of worldly culture, the distilled quintessence of all that is exquisitely elaborated by social art. Polished as the high society of Paris may be, it does not approach this;[2136] compared with the court, it seems provincial. It is said that a hundred thousand roses are required to make an ounce of the unique perfume used by Persian kings; such is this drawing-room, the frail vial of crystal and gold containing the substance of a human vegetation. To fill it, a great aristocracy had to be transplanted to a hot-house and become sterile in fruit and flowers, and then, in the royal alembic, its pure sap is concentrated into a few drops of aroma. The price is excessive, but only at this price can the most delicate perfumes be manufactured.



IV. Everyday Life In Court.

The king's occupations.—Rising in the morning, mass, dinner, walks, hunting, supper, play, evening receptions. —He is always on parade and in company.

An operation of this kind absorbs him who undertakes it as well as those who undergo it. A nobility for useful purposes is not transformed with impunity into a nobility for ornament;[2137] one falls himself into the ostentation which is substituted for action. The king has a court which he is compelled to maintain. So much the worse if it absorbs all his time, his intellect, his soul, the most valuable portion of his active forces and the forces of the State. To be the master of a house is not an easy task, especially when five hundred persons are to be entertained; one must necessarily pass one's life in public and all the time being on exhibition. Strictly speaking it is the life of an actor who is on the stage the entire day. To support this load, and work besides, required the temperament of Louis XIV, the vigor of his body, the extraordinary firmness of his nerves, the strength of his digestion, and the regularity of his habits; his successors who come after him grow weary or stagger under the same load. But they cannot throw it off; an incessant, daily performance is inseparable from their position and it is imposed on them like a heavy, gilded, ceremonial coat. The king is expected to keep the entire aristocracy busy, consequently to make a display of himself, to pay back with his own person, at all hours, even the most private, even on getting out of bed, and even in his bed. In the morning, at the hour named by himself beforehand,[2138] the head valet awakens him; five series of persons enter in turn to perform their duty, and, "although very large, there are days when the waiting-rooms can hardly contain the crowd of courtiers."—The first admittance is "l'entree familiere," consisting of the children of France, the princes and princesses of the blood, and, besides these, the chief physician, the chief surgeon and other serviceable persons.[2139] Next, comes the "grande entree;' which comprises the grand-chamberlain, the grand-master and master of the wardrobe, the first gentlemen of the bedchamber, the Ducs d'Orleans and de Penthievre, some other highly favored seigniors, the ladies of honor and in waiting of the queen, Mesdames and other princesses, without enumerating barbers tailors and various descriptions of valets. Meanwhile spirits of wine are poured on the king's hands from a service of plate, and he is then handed the basin of holy water; he crosses himself and repeats a prayer. Then he gets out of bed before all these people and puts on his slippers. The grand-chamberlain and the first gentleman hand him his dressing-gown; he puts this on and seats himself in the chair in which he is to put on his clothes. At this moment the door opens and a third group enters, which is the "entree des brevets;" the seigniors who compose this enjoy, in addition, the precious privilege of assisting at the "petite coucher," while, at the same moment there enters a detachment of attendants, consisting of the physicians and surgeons in ordinary, the intendants of the amusements, readers and others, and among the latter those who preside over physical requirements; the publicity of a royal life is so great that none of its functions can be exercised without witnesses. At the moment of the approach of the officers of the wardrobe to dress him the first gentleman, notified by an usher, advances to read to the king the names of the grandees who are waiting at the door: this is the fourth entry called "la chambre," and larger than those preceding it; for, not to mention the cloak-bearers, gun-bearers, rug-bearers and other valets it comprises most of the superior officials, the grand-almoner, the almoners on duty, the chaplain, the master of the oratory, the captain and major of the body-guard, the colonel-general and major of the French guards, the colonel of the king's regiment, the captain of the Cent Suisses, the grand-huntsman, the grand wolf-huntsman, the grand-provost, the grand-master and master of ceremonies, the first butler, the grand-master of the pantry, the foreign ambassadors, the ministers and secretaries of state, the marshals of France and most of the seigniors and prelates of distinction. Ushers place the ranks in order and, if necessary, impose silence. Meanwhile the king washes his hands and begins his toilet. Two pages remove his slippers; the grand-master of the wardrobe draws off his night-shirt by the right arm, and the first valet of the wardrobe by the left arm, and both of them hand it to an officer of the wardrobe, whilst a valet of the wardrobe fetches the shirt wrapped up in white taffeta. Things have now reached the solemn point, the culmination of the ceremony; the fifth entry has been introduced, and, in a few moments, after the king has put his shirt on, all that is left of those who are known, with other house hold officers waiting in the gallery, complete the influx. There is quite a formality in regard to this shirt. The honor of handing it is reserved to the sons and grandsons of France; in default of these to the princes of the blood or those legitimized; in their default to the grand-chamberlain or to the first gentleman of the bedchamber;—the latter case, it must be observed, being very rare, the princes being obliged to be present at the king's lever, as were the princesses at that of the queen.[2140] At last the shirt is presented and a valet carries off the old one; the first valet of the wardrobe and the first valet-de-chambre hold the fresh one, each by a right and left arm respectively,[2141] while two other valets, during this operation, extend his dressing-gown in front of him to serve as a screen. The shirt is now on his back and the toilet commences. A valet-de-chambre supports a mirror before the king while two others on the two sides light it up, if occasion requires, with flambeaux. Valets of the wardrobe fetch the rest of the attire; the grand-master of the wardrobe puts the vest on and the doublet, attaches the blue ribbon, and clasps his sword around him; then a valet assigned to the cravats brings several of these in a basket, while the master of the wardrobe arranges around the king's neck that which the king selects. After this a valet assigned to the handkerchiefs brings three of these on a silver salver, while the grand-master of the wardrobe offers the salver to the king, who chooses one. Finally the master of the wardrobe hands to the king his hat, his gloves and his cane. The king then steps to the side of the bed, kneels on a cushion and says his prayers, whilst an almoner in a low voice recites the orison Quoesumus, deus omnipotens. This done, the king announces the order of the day, and passes with the leading persons of his court into his cabinet, where he sometimes gives audience. Meanwhile the rest of the company await him in the gallery in order to accompany him to mass when he comes out.

Such is the lever, a piece in five acts.—Nothing could be contrived better calculated to fill up the void of an aristocratic life; a hundred or thereabouts of notable seigniors dispose of a couple of hours in coming, in waiting, in entering, in defiling, in taking positions, in standing on their feet, in maintaining an air of respect and of ease suitable to a superior class of walking gentlemen, while those best qualified are about to do the same thing over in the queen's apartment.[2142]—The king, however, as an indirect consequence, suffers the same torture and the same inaction as he imposes. He also is playing a part; all his steps and all his gestures have been determined beforehand; he has been obliged to arrange his physiognomy and his voice, never to depart from an affable and dignified air, to award judiciously his glances and his nods, to keep silent or to speak only of the chase, and to suppress his own thoughts, if he has any. One cannot indulge in reverie, meditate or be absent-minded when one is before the footlights; the part must have due attention. Besides, in a drawing room there is only drawing room conversation, and the master's thoughts, instead of being directed in a profitable channel, must be scattered about like the holy water of the court. All hours of his day are passed in a similar manner, except three or four during the morning, during which he is at the council or in his private room; it must be noted, too, that on the days after his hunts, on returning home from Rambouillet at three o'clock in the morning, he must sleep the few hours he has left to him. The ambassador Mercy,[2143] nevertheless, a man of close application, seems to think it sufficient; he, at least, thinks that "Louis XVI is a man of order, losing no time in useless things;" his predecessor, indeed, worked much less, scarcely an hour a day. Three-quarters of his time is thus given up to show. The same retinue surrounds him when he puts on his boots, when he takes them off; when he changes his clothes to mount his horse, when he returns home to dress for the evening, and when he goes to his room at night to retire. "Every evening for six years, says a page,[2144] either myself or one of my comrades has seen Louis XVI get into bed in public," with the ceremonial just described. "It was not omitted ten times to my knowledge, and then accidentally or through indisposition." The attendance is yet more numerous when he dines and takes supper; for, besides men there are women present, duchesses seated on the folding-chairs, also others standing around the table. It is needless to state that in the evening when he plays, or gives a ball, or a concert, the crowd rushes in and overflows. When he hunts, besides the ladies on horses and in vehicles, besides officers of the hunt, of the guards, the equerry, the cloak-bearer, gun-bearer, surgeon, bone-setter, lunch-bearer and I know not how many others, all the gentlemen who accompany him are his permanent guests. And do not imagine that this suite is a small one;[2145] the day M. de Chateaubriand is presented there are four fresh additions, and "with the utmost punctuality" all the young men of high rank join the king's retinue two or three times a week. Not only the eight or ten scenes which compose each of these days, but again the short intervals between the scenes are besieged and carried. People watch for him, walk by his side and speak with him on his way from his cabinet to the chapel, between his apartment and his carriage, between his carriage and his apartment, between his cabinet and his dining room. And still more, his life behind the scenes belongs to the public. If he is indisposed and broth is brought to him, if he is ill and medicine is handed to him, "a servant immediately summons the 'grande entree.'" Verily, the king resembles an oak stifled by the innumerable creepers which, from top to bottom, cling to its trunk. Under a regime of this stamp there is a want of air; some opening has to be found; Louis XV availed himself of the chase and of suppers; Louis XVI of the chase and of lock-making. And I have not mentioned the infinite detail of etiquette, the extraordinary ceremonial of the state dinner, the fifteen, twenty and thirty beings busy around the king's plates and glasses, the sacramental utterances of the occasion, the procession of the retinue, the arrival of "la nef" "l'essai des plats," all as if in a Byzantine or Chinese court.[2146] On Sundays the entire public, the public in general, is admitted, and this is called the "grand couvert," as complex and as solemn as a high mass. Accordingly to eat, to drink, to get up, to go to bed, is to a descendant of Louis XIV, to officiate.[2147] Frederick II, on hearing an explanation of this etiquette, declared that if he were king of France his first edict would be to appoint another king to hold court in his place. In effect, if there are idlers to salute there must be an idler to be saluted. Only one way was possible by which the monarch could have been set free, and that was to have recast and transformed the French nobles, according to the Prussian system, into a hard-working regiment of serviceable functionaries. But, so long as the court remains what it is, that is to say, a pompous parade and a drawing room decoration, the king himself must likewise remain a showy decoration, of little or no use.



V. Royal Distractions.

Diversions of the royal family and of the court.—Louis XV. —Louis XVI.

In short, what is the occupation of a well-qualified master of a house? He amuses himself and he amuses his guests; under his roof a new pleasure-party comes off daily. Let us enumerate those of a week. "Yesterday, Sunday," says the Duc de Luynes, "I met the king going to hunt on the plain of St. Denis, having slept at la Muette, where he intends to remain shooting to day and to-morrow, and to return here on Tuesday or Wednesday morning, to run down a stag the same day, Wednesday."[2148] Two months after this, "the king," again says M. de Luynes, "has been hunting every day of the past and of the present week, except to day and on Sundays, killing, since the beginning, 3,500 partridges." He is always on the road, or hunting, or passing from one residence to another, from Versailles to Fontainebleau, to Choisy, to Marly, to la Muette, to Compiegne, to Trianon, to Saint-Hubert, to Bellevue, to Rambouillet, and, generally, with his entire court.[2149] At Choisy, especially, and at Fontainebleau this company all lead a merry life. At Fontainebleau "Sunday and Friday, play; Monday and Wednesday, a concert in the queen's apartments; Tuesday and Thursday, the French comedians; and Saturday it is the Italians;" there is something for every day in the week. At Choisy, writes the Dauphine,[2150] "from one o'clock (in the afternoon) when we dine, to one o'clock at night we remain out. . . After dining we play until six o'clock, after which we go to the theater, which lasts until half-past nine o'clock, and next, to supper; after this, play again, until one, and sometimes half-past one, o'clock." At Versailles things are more moderate; there are but two theatrical entertainments and one ball a week; but every evening there is play and a reception in the king's apartment, in his daughters', in his mistress's, in his daughter-in-law's, besides hunts and three petty excursions a week. Records show that, in a certain year, Louis XV slept only fifty-two nights at Versailles, while the Austrian Ambassador well says that "his mode of living leaves him not an hour in the day for attention to important matters."—As to Louis XVI, we have seen that he reserves a few hours of the morning; but the machine is wound up, and go it must. How can he withdraw himself from his guests and not do the honors of his house? Here propriety and custom are tyrants and a third despotism must be added, still more absolute: the imperious vivacity of a lively young queen who cannot endure an hour's reading.—At Versailles, three theatrical entertainments and two balls a week, two grand suppers Tuesday and Thursday, and from time to time, the opera in Paris.[2151] At Fontainebleau, the theater three times a week, and on other days, play and suppers. During the following winter the queen gives a masked ball each week, in which "the contrivance of the costumes, the quadrilles arranged in ballets, and the daily rehearsals, take so much time as to consume the entire week." During the carnival of 1777 the queen, besides her own fetes, attends the balls of the Palais-Royal and the masked balls of the opera; a little later, I find another ball at the abode of the Comtesse Diana de Polignac, which she attends with the whole royal family, except Mesdames, and which lasts from half-past eleven o'clock at night until eleven o'clock the next morning. Meanwhile, on ordinary days, there is the rage of faro; in her drawing room "there is no limit to the play; in one evening the Duc de Chartres loses 8,000 louis. It really resembles an Italian carnival; there is nothing lacking, neither masks nor the comedy of private life; they play, they laugh, they dance, they dine, they listen to music, they don costumes, they get up picnics (fetes-champetres), they indulge in gossip and gallantries." "The newest song,"[2152] says a cultivated, earnest lady of the bedchamber, "the current witticism and little scandalous stories, formed the sole subjects of conversation in the queen's circle of intimates."—As to the king, who is rather dull and who requires physical exercise, the chase is his most important occupation. Between 1755 and 1789,[2153] he himself, on recapitulating what he had accomplished, finds "104 boar-hunts, 134 stag-hunts, 266 of bucks, 33 with hounds, and 1,025 shootings," in all 1,562 hunting-days, averaging at least one hunt every three days; besides this there are a 149 excursions without hunts, and 223 promenades on horseback or in carriages. "During four months of the year he goes to Rambouillet twice a week and returns after having supped, that is to say, at three o'clock in the morning."[2154] This inveterate habit ends in becoming a mania, and even in something worse. "The nonchalance," writes Arthur Young, June 26, 1789, "and even stupidity of the court, is unparalleled; the moment demands the greatest decision, and yesterday, while it was actually a question whether he should be a doge of Venice or a king of France, the king went a hunting!" His journal reads like that of a gamekeeper's. On reading it at the most important dates one is amazed at its entries. He writes nothing on the days not devoted to hunting, which means that to him these days are of no account:

July 11, 1789, nothing; M. Necker leaves.

July 12th vespers and benediction; Messieurs de Montmorin, de Saint-Priest and de la Luzerne leave.

July 13th, nothing.

July 14th, nothing.

July 29th, nothing; M. Necker returns.....

August 4th, stag-hunt in the forest at Marly; took one; go and come on horseback.

August 13th, audience of the States in the gallery; Te Deum during the mass below; one stag taken in the hunt at Marly. . .

August 25th, complimentary audience of the States; high mass with the cordons bleus; M. Bailly sworn in; vespers and benediction; state dinner....

October 5th, shooting near Chatillon; killed 81 head; interrupted by events; go and come on horseback.

October 6th, leave for Paris at half-past twelve; visit the Hotel-de-Ville; sup and rest at the Tuileries.

October 7th nothing; my aunts come and dine.

October 8th, nothing. . .

October 12th, nothing; the stag hunted at Port Royal.

Shut up in Paris, held by the crowds, his heart is always with the hounds. Twenty times in 1790 we read in his journal of a stag-hunt occurring in this or that place; he regrets not being on hand. No privation is more intolerable to him; we encounter traces of his chagrin even in the formal protest he draws up before leaving for Varennes; transported to Paris, shut up in the Tuileries, "where, far from finding conveniences to which he is accustomed, he has not even enjoyed the advantages common to persons in easy circumstances," his crown to him having apparently lost its brightest jewel.



VI. Upper Class Distractions.

Other similar lives.—Princes and princesses.—Seigniors of the court.—Financiers and parvenus.—Ambassadors, ministers, governors, general officers.

As is the general so is his staff; the grandees imitate their monarch. Like some costly colossal effigy in marble, erected in the center of France, and of which reduced copies are scattered by thousands throughout the provinces, thus does royal life repeat itself, in minor proportions, even among the remotest gentry. The object is to make a parade and to receive; to make a figure and to pass away time in good society.—I find, first, around the court, about a dozen princely courts. Each prince or princess of the blood royal, like the king, has his house fitted up, paid for, in whole or in part, out of the treasury, its service divided into special departments, with gentlemen, pages, and ladies in waiting, in brief, fifty, one hundred, two hundred, and even five hundred appointments. There is a household of this kind for the queen, one for Madame Victoire, one for Madame Elisabeth, one for Monsieur, one for Madame, one for the Comte d'Artois, and one for the Comtesse d'Artois. There will be one for Madame Royale, one for the little Dauphin, one for the Duc de Normandie, all three children of the king, one for the Duc d'Angouleme, one for the Duc de Berry, both sons of the Comte d'Artois: children six or seven years of age receive and make a parade of themselves. On referring to a particular date, in 1771,[2155] I find still another for the Duc d'Orleans, one for the Duc de Bourbon, one for the Duchesse, one for the Prince de Conde, one for the Comte de Clermont, one for the Princess dowager de Conti, one for the Prince de Conti, one for the Comte de la Marche, one for the Duc de Penthievre.—Each personage, besides his or her apartment under the king's roof has his or her chateau and palace with his or her own circle, the queen at Trianon and at Saint-Cloud, Mesdames at Bellevue, Monsieur at the Luxembourg and at Brunoy, the Comte d'Artois at Meudon and at Bagatelle, the Duc d'Orleans at the Palais Royal, at Monceaux, at Rancy and at Villers-Cotterets, the Prince de Conti at the Temple and at Ile-Adam, the Condes at the Palais-Bourbon and at Chantilly, the Duc de Penthievre at Sceaux, Anet and Chateauvilain. I omit one-half of these residences. At the Palais-Royal those who are presented may come to the supper on opera days. At Chateauvilain all those who come to pay court are invited to dinner, the nobles at the duke's table and the rest at the table of his first gentleman. At the Temple one hundred and fifty guests attend the Monday suppers. Forty or fifty persons, said the Duchesse de Maine, constitute "a prince's private company."[2156] The princes' train is so inseparable from their persons that it follows them even into camp. "The Prince de Conde," says M. de Luynes, "sets out for the army to-morrow with a large suite: he has two hundred and twenty-five horses, and the Comte de la Marche one hundred. M. le duc d'Orleans leaves on Monday; he has three hundred and fifty horses for himself and suite."[2157] Below the rank of the king's relatives all the grandees who figure at the court figure as well in their own residences, at their hotels at Paris or at Versailles, also in their chateaux a few leagues away from Paris. On all sides, in the memoirs, we obtain a foreshortened view of some one of these seignorial existences. Such is that of the Duc de Gevres, first gentleman of the bedchamber, governor of Paris, and of the Ile-de-France, possessing besides this the special governorships of Laon, Soissons, Noyon, Crespy and Valois, the captainry of Mousseaux, also a pension of 20,000 livres, a veritable man of the court, a sort of sample in high relief of the people of his class, and who, through his appointments, his airs, his luxury, his debts, the consideration he enjoys, his tastes, his occupations and his turn of mind presents to us an abridgment of the fashionable world.[2158] His memory for relationships and genealogies is surprising; he is an adept in the precious science of etiquette, and on these two grounds he is an oracle and much consulted. "He greatly increased the beauty of his house and gardens at Saint-Ouen. At the moment of his death," says the Duc de Luynes, "he had just added twenty-five arpents to it which he had begun to enclose with a covered terrace. . . . He had quite a large household of gentlemen, pages, and domestic of various kinds, and his expenditure was enormous. . . . He gave a grand dinner every day. . . . He gave special audiences almost daily. There was no one at the court, nor in the city, who did not pay his respects to him. The ministers, the royal princes themselves did so. He received company whilst still in bed. He wrote and dictated amidst a large assemblage. . . . His house at Paris and his apartment at Versailles were never empty from the time be arose till the time he retired." 2 or 300 households at Paris, at Versailles and in their environs, offer a similar spectacle. Never is there solitude. It is the custom in France, says Horace Walpole, to burn your candle down to its snuff in public. The mansion of the Duchesse de Gramont is besieged at day-break by the noblest seigniors and the noblest ladies. Five times a week, under the Duc de Choiseul's roof, the butler enters the drawing room at ten o'clock in the evening to bestow a glance on the immense crowded gallery and decide if he shall lay the cloth for fifty, sixty or eighty persons;[2159] with this example before them all the rich establishments soon glory in providing an open table for all comers. Naturally the parvenus, the financiers who have purchased or taken the name of an estate, all those traffickers and sons of traffickers who, since Law, associate with the nobility, imitate their ways. And I do not allude to the Bourets, the Beaujons, the St. Jameses and other financial wretches whose paraphernalia effaces that of the princes; but take a plain associe des fermes, M. d'Epinay, whose modest and refined wife refuses such excessive display.[2160] He had just completed his domestic arrangements, and was anxious that his wife should take a second maid; but she resisted; nevertheless, in this curtailed household.

"The officers, women and valets, amounted to sixteen. . . . When M. d'Epinay gets up his valet enters on his duties. Two lackeys stand by awaiting his orders. The first secretary enters for the purpose of giving an account of the letters received by him and which he has to open; but he is interrupted two hundred times in this business by all sorts of people imaginable. Now it is a horse-jockey with the finest horses to sell. . . . Again some saucy girl who calls to bawl out a piece of music, and on whose behalf some influence has been exerted to get her into the opera, after giving her a few lessons in good taste and teaching her what is proper in French music. This young lady has been made to wait to ascertain if I am still at home. . . . I get up and go out. Two lackeys open the folding doors to let me make it through this eye of a needle, while two servants bawl out in the ante-chamber, 'Madame, gentlemen, Madame!' All form a line, the gentlemen consisting of dealers in fabrics, in instruments, jewellers, hawkers, lackeys, shoeblacks, creditors, in short everything imaginable that is most ridiculous and annoying. The clock strikes twelve or one before this toilet matter is over, and the secretary, who, doubtless, knows by experience the impossibility of rendering a detailed statement of his business, hands to his master a small memorandum informing him what he must say in the assembly of fermiers."

Indolence, disorder, debts, ceremony, the tone and ways of the patron, all seems a parody of the real thing. We are beholding the last stages of aristocracy. And yet the court of M. d'Epinay is a miniature resemblance of that of the king.

So much more essential is it that the ambassadors, ministers and general officers who represent the king should display themselves in a grandiose manner. No circumstance rendered the ancient regime so brilliant and more oppressive; in this, as in all the rest, Louis XIV is the principal originator of evil as of good. The policy which fashioned the court prescribed ostentation.

"A display of dress, table, equipages, buildings and play was made purposely to please; these afforded opportunities for entering into conversation with him. The contagion had spread from the court into the provinces and to the armies, where people of any position were esteemed only in proportion to their table and magnificence."[2161]

During the year passed by the Marshal de Belle-Isle at Frankfort, on account of the election of Charles VI, he expended 750,000 livres in journeys, transportations, festivals and dinners, in constructing a kitchen and dining-hall, and besides all this, 150,000 livres in snuff-boxes, watches and other presents; by order of Cardinal Fleury, so economical, he had in his kitchens one hundred and one officials.[2162] At Vienna, in 1772, the ambassador, the Prince de Rohan, had two carriages costing together 40,000 livres, forty horses, seven noble pages, six gentlemen, five secretaries, ten musicians, twelve footmen, and four grooms whose gorgeous liveries each cost 4,000 livres, and the rest in proportion.[2163] We are familiar with the profusion, the good taste, the exquisite dinners, and the admirable ceremonial display of the Cardinal de Bernis in Rome. "He was called the king of Rome, and indeed he was such through his magnificence and in the consideration he enjoyed. . . . His table afforded an idea of what is possible. . . In festivities, ceremonies and illuminations he was always beyond comparison." He himself remarked, smiling, "I keep a French inn on the cross-roads of Europe."[2164] Accordingly their salaries and indemnities are two or three times more ample than at the present day. "The king gives 50,000 crowns to the great embassies. The Duc de Duras received even 200,000 livres per annum for that of Madrid, also, besides this, 100,000 crowns gratuity, 50,000 livres for secret service; and he had the loan of furniture and effects valued at 400,000 and 500,000 livres, of which he kept one-half."[2165] The outlays and salaries of the ministers are similar. In 1789, the Chancellor gets 120,080 livres salary and the Keeper of the Seals 135,000. "M. de Villedeuil, as Secretary of State, was to have had 180,670 livres, but as he represented that this sum would not cover his expenses, his salary was raised to 226,000 livres, everything included."[2166] Moreover, the rule is, that on retiring from office the king awards them a pension of 20,000 livres and gives a dowry of 200,000 livres to their daughters. This is not excessive considering the way they live. "They are obliged to maintain such state in their households, for they cannot enrich themselves by their places. All keep open table at Paris three days in the week, and at Fontainebleau every day."[2167] M. de Lamoignon being appointed Chancellor with a salary of 100,000 livres, people at once declare that he will be ruined;[2168] "for he has taken all the officials of M. d'Aguesseau's kitchen, whose table alone cost 80,000 livres. The banquet he gave at Versailles to the first council held by him cost 6,000 livres, and he must always have seats at table, at Versailles and at Paris, for twenty persons." At Chambord,[2169] Marshal de Saxe always has two tables, one for sixty, and the other for eighty persons; also four hundred horses in his stables, a civil list of more than 100,000 crowns, a regiment of Uhlans for his guard, and a theater costing over 600,000 livres, while the life he leads, or which is maintained around him, resembles one of Rubens's bacchanalian scenes. As to the special and general provincial governors we have seen that, when they reside on the spot, they fulfill no other duty than to entertain; alongside of them the intendant, who alone attends to business, likewise receives, and magnificently, especially for the country of a States-General. Commandants, lieutenants-general, the envoys of the central government throughout, are equally induced by habit and propriety, as well as by their own lack of occupation, to maintain a drawing-room; they bring along with them the elegance and hospitality of Versailles. If the wife follows them she becomes weary and "vegetates in the midst of about fifty companions, talking nothing but commonplace, knitting or playing lotto, and sitting three hours at the dinner table." But "all the military men, all the neighboring gentry and all the ladies in the town," eagerly crowd to her balls and delight in commending "her grace, her politeness, her equality."[2170] These sumptuous habits prevail even among people of secondary position. By virtue of established usage colonels and captains entertain their subordinates and thus expend "much beyond their salaries."[2171] This is one of the reasons why regiments are reserved for the sons of the best families, and companies in them for wealthy gentlemen. The vast royal tree, expanding so luxuriantly at Versailles, sends forth its offshoots to overrun France by thousands, and to bloom everywhere, as at Versailles, in bouquets of finery and of drawing room sociability.



VII. Provincial Nobility.

Prelates, seigniors and minor provincial nobles.—The feudal aristocracy transformed into a drawing room group.

Following this pattern, and as well through the effect of temperature, we see, even in remote provinces, all aristocratic branches having a flourishing social life. Lacking other employment, the nobles exchange visits, and the chief function of a prominent seignior is to do the honors of his house creditably. This applies as well to ecclesiastics as to laymen. The one hundred and thirty-one bishops and archbishops, the seven hundred abbes-commendatory, are all men of the world; they behave well, are rich, and are not austere, while their episcopal palace or abbey is for them a country-house, which they repair or embellish with a view to the time they pass in it, and to the company they welcome to it.[2172] At Clairvaux, Dom Rocourt, very affable with men and still more gallant with the ladies, never drives out except with four horses, and with a mounted groom ahead; his monks do him the honors of a Monseigneur, and he maintains a veritable court. The chartreuse of Val Saint-Pierre is a sumptuous palace in the center of an immense domain, and the father-procurator, Dom Effinger, passes his days in entertaining his guests.[2173] At the convent of Origny, near Saint-Quentin,[2174] "the abbess has her domestics and her carriage and horses, and receives men on visits, who dine in her apartments." The princess Christine, abbess of Remiremont, with her lady canonesses, are almost always traveling; and yet "they enjoy themselves in the abbey," entertaining there a good many people "in the private apartments of the princess, and in the strangers' rooms."[2175] The twenty-five noble chapters of women, and the nineteen noble chapters of men, are as many permanent drawing-rooms and gathering places incessantly resorted to by the fine society which a slight ecclesiastical barrier scarcely divides from the great world from which it is recruited. At the chapter of Alix, near Lyons, the canonesses wear hoopskirts into the choir, "dressed as in the world outside," except that their black silk robes and their mantles are lined with ermine.[2176] At the chapter of Ottmarsheim in Alsace, "our week was passed in promenading, in visiting the traces of Roman roads, in laughing a good deal, and even in dancing, for there were many people visiting the abbey, and especially talking over dresses." Near Sarrebuis, the canonesses of Loutre dine with the officers and are anything but prudish.[2177] Numbers of convents serve as agreeable and respectable asylums for widowed ladies, for young women whose husbands are in the army, and for young ladies of rank, while the superior, generally some noble damsel, wields, with ease and dexterity, the scepter of this pretty feminine world. But nowhere is the pomp of hospitality or the concourse greater, than in the episcopal palaces. I have described the situation of the bishops; with their opulence, possessors of the like feudal rights, heirs and successors to the ancient sovereigns of the territory, and besides all this, men of the world and frequenters of Versailles, why should they not keep a court? A Cice, archbishop of Bordeaux, a Dillon, archbishop of Narbonne, a Brienne, archbishop of Toulouse, a Castellane, bishop of Mende and seignior-suzerain of the whole of Gevaudan, an archbishop of Cambrai, duke of Cambray, seignior-suzerain of the whole of Cambresis, and president by birth of the provincial States-General, are nearly all princes; why not parade themselves like princes? Hence, they build, hunt and have their clients and guests, a lever, an antechamber, ushers, officers, a free table, a complete household, equipages, and, oftener still, debts, the finishing touch of a grand seignior. In the almost regal palace which the Rohans, hereditary bishops of Strasbourg and cardinals from uncle to nephew, erected for themselves at Saverne,[2178] there are 700 beds, 180 horses, 14 butlers, and 25 valets. "The whole province assembles there;" the cardinal lodges as many as two hundred guests at a time, without counting the valets; at all times there are found under his roof "from twenty to thirty ladies the most agreeable of the province, and this number is often increased by those of the court and from Paris. . . . The entire company sup together at nine o'clock in the evening, which always looks like a fete," and the cardinal himself is its chief ornament. Splendidly dressed, fine-looking, gallant, exquisitely polite, the slightest smile is a grace. "His face, always beaming, inspired confidence; he had the true physiognomy of a man expressly designed for pompous display."

Such likewise is the attitude and occupation of the principal lay seigniors, at home, in summer, when a love of the charms of fine weather brings them back to their estates. For example, Harcourt in Normandy and Brienne in Champagne are two chateaux the best frequented. "Persons of distinction resort to it from Paris, eminent men of letters, while the nobility of the canton pay there an assiduous court."[2179] There is no residence where flocks of fashionable people do not light down permanently to dine, to dance, to hunt, to gossip, to unravel,[2180] (parfiler) to play comedy. We can trace these birds from cage to cage; they remain a week, a month, three months, displaying their plumage and their prattle. From Paris to Ile-Adam, to Villers-Cotterets, to Fretoy, to Planchette, to Soissons, to Rheims, to Grisolles, to Sillery, to Braine, to Balincourt, to Vaudreuil, the Comte and Comtesse de Genlis thus bear about their leisure, their wit, their gaiety, at the domiciles of friends whom, in their turn, they entertain at Genlis. A glance at the exteriors of these mansions suffices to show that it was the chief duty in these days to be hospitable, as it was a prime necessity to be in society.[2181] Their luxury, indeed, differs from ours. With the exception of a few princely establishments it is not great in the matter of country furniture; a display of this description is left to the financiers. "But it is prodigious in all things which can minister to the enjoyment of others, in horses, carriages, and in an open table, in accommodations given even to people not belonging to the house, in boxes at the play which are lent to friends, and lastly, in servants, much more numerous than nowadays." Through this mutual and constant attention the most rustic nobles lose the rust still encrusting their brethren in Germany or in England. We find in France few Squire Western and Barons de Thunder-ten-Troenck; an Alsatian lady, on seeing at Frankfort the grotesque country squires of Westphalia, is struck with the contrast.[2182] Those of France, even in distant provinces, have frequented the drawing-rooms of the commandant and intendant, and have encountered on their visits some of the ladies from Versailles; hence they always show some familiarity with superior manners and some knowledge of the changes of fashion and dress." The most barbarous will descend, with his hat in his hand, to the foot of his steps to escort his guests, thanking them for the honor they have done him. The greatest rustic, when in a woman's presence, dives down into the depths of his memory for some fragment of chivalric gallantry. The poorest and most secluded furbishes up his coat of royal blue and his cross of St. Louis that he may, when the occasion offers, tender his respects to his neighbor, the grand seignior, or to the prince who is passing by.

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