The Memoirs of Louis XIV by Elizabeth-Charlotte - HTML preview

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The First Dauphin

All that was good in the first Dauphin came from his preceptor; all that was bad from himself. He never either loved or hated any one much, and yet he was very wicked. His greatest pleasure was to do something to vex a person; and immediately afterwards, if he could do something very pleasing to the same person, he would set about it with great willingness. In every respect he was of the strangest temper possible: when one thought he was good-humoured, he was angry; and when one supposed him to be ill-humoured, he was in an amiable mood. No one could ever guess him rightly, and I do not believe that his like ever was or ever will be born. It cannot be said that he had much wit; but still less was he a fool. Nobody was ever more prompt to seize the ridiculous points of anything in himself or in others; he told stories agreeably; he was a keen observer, and dreaded nothing so much as to be one day King: not so much from affection for his father, as from a dread of the trouble of reigning, for he was so extremely idle that he neglected all things; and he would have preferred his ease to all the kingdoms and empires of the earth. He could remain for a whole day, sitting on a sofa or in an armchair, beating his cane against his shoes, without saying a word; he never gave an opinion upon any subject; but when once, in the course of the year, he did speak, he could express himself in terms sufficiently noble. Sometimes when he spoke one would say he was stupidity itself; at another time he would deliver himself with astonishing sense. At one time you would think he was the best Prince in the world; at another he would do all he could to give people pain. Nobody seemed to be so ill with him but he would take the trouble of making them laugh at the expense of those most dear to him. His maxim was, never to seem to like one man in the Court better than another. He had a perfect horror of favourites, and yet he sought favour himself as much as the commonest courtier could do. He did not pride himself upon his politeness, and was enraged when any one penetrated his intentions. As I had known him from his infancy I could sometimes guess his meaning, which angered him excessively. He was not very fond of being treated respectfully; he liked better not to be put to any trouble. He was rather partial than just, as may be shown by the regulations he made as to the rank of my son's daughter. He never liked or hated any Minister. He laughed often and heartily. He was a very obedient son, and never opposed the King's will in any way, and was more submissive to Maintenon than any other person. Those who say that he would have retired, if the King had declared his marriage with that old woman, did not know him; had he not an old mistress of his own, to whom he was believed to be privately married? What prevented Maintenon from being declared Queen was the wise reasons which the Archbishop of Cambray, M. de Fenelon, urged to the King, and for which she persecuted that worthy man to the day of his death.

If the Dauphin had chosen, he might have enjoyed greater credit with his father. The King had offered him permission to go to the Royal Treasury to bestow what favours he chose upon the persons of his own Court; and at the Treasury orders were given that he should have whatever he asked for. The Dauphin replied that it would give him so much trouble. He would never know anything about State affairs lest he should be obliged to attend the Privy Councils, and have no more time to hunt. Some persons thought he did this from motives of policy and to make the King believe he had no ambition; but I am persuaded it was from nothing but indolence and laziness; he loved to live a slothful life, and to interfere with nothing.

At the King of Spain's departure our King wept a good deal; the Dauphin also wept much, although he had never before manifested the least affection for his children. They were never seen in his apartment morning and evening. When he was not at the chase the Dauphin passed his time with the great Princesse de Conti, and latterly with the Duchess. One must have guessed that the children belonged to him, for he lived like a stranger among them. He never called them his sons, but the Duke of Burgundy, the Duc d'Anjou, the Duc de Berri; and they, in turn, always called him Monseigneur.

I lived upon a very good understanding with him for more than twenty years, and he had great confidence in me until the Duchess got possession of him; then everything with regard to me was changed: and as, after my husband's death, I never went to the chase with the Dauphin, I had no further relation with him, and he behaved as if he had never seen or known me. If he had been wise he would have preferred the society of the Princesse de Conti to that of the Duchess, because the first, having a good heart, loved him for himself; while the other loved nothing in the world, and listened to nothing but her taste for pleasure, her interest, and her ambition. So that, provided she attained her ends, she cared little for the Dauphin, who by his condescension for this Princess gave a great proof of weakness.

In general, his heart was not correct enough to discern what real friendship was; he loved only those who afforded him amusement, and despised all others. The Duchess was very agreeable and had some pleasant notions; she was fond of eating, which was the very thing for the Dauphin, because he found a good breakfast at her house every morning and a collation in the afternoon. The Duchess's daughters were of the same character as their mother; so that the Dauphin might be all the day in the company of gay people.

He was strongly attached to his son's wife; but when she quarrelled with the Duchess her father-in-law changed his opinion of her. What displeased him besides was that the Duchess of Burgundy married his younger son, the Duc de Berri, against his inclination. He was not wrong in that, because, although the marriage was to our advantage, I must confess that the Dauphin was not even treated with decency in the business.

Neither of the two Dauphins or the Dauphines ever interested themselves much about their children. The King had them educated without consulting them, appointed all their servants, and was even displeased if they interfered with them in any way. The Dauphin knows nothing of good breeding; he and his sons are perfect clowns.

The women of La Halle had a real passion for the first Dauphin; they had been made to believe that he would take the part of the people of Paris, in which there was not a word of truth. The people believed that he was better hearted than he was. He would not, in fact, have been wicked if the Marechal d'Uxelles, La Chouin and Montespan, with whom he was in his youth, as well as the Duchess, had not spoiled him, and made him believe that malice was a proof of wit.

He did not grieve more than a quarter of an hour at the death of his mother or of his wife; and when he wrapped himself up in his long mourning cloak he was ready to choke with laughter.

He had followed his father's example in taking an ugly, nasty mistress, who had been fille d'honneur to the elder Princess de Conti: her name is Mademoiselle de Chouin, and she is still living at Paris (1719). It was generally believed that he had married her clandestinely; but I would lay a wager he never did. She had the figure of a duenna; was of very small stature; had very short legs; large rolling eyes; a round face; a short turnedup nose; a large mouth filled with decayed teeth, which made her breath so bad that the room in which she sat could hardly be endured.


And yet this short, fat woman had a great deal of wit; and I believe the Dauphin accustomed himself to take snuff that he might not be annoyed by her bad teeth. He was very civil to the Marechal d'Uxelles, because he pretended to be the intimate with this lady; but as soon as the Dauphin was caught, the Marechal ceased to see her, and never once set foot in her house, although before that he had been in the habit of visiting her daily.

The Dauphin had a daughter by Raisin the actress, but he would never acknowledge her, and after his death the Princess Conti took care of her, and married her to a gentleman of Vaugourg. The Dauphin was so tired of the Duc du Maine that he had sworn never to acknowledge any of his illegitimate children. This Raisin must have had very peculiar charms to make an impression upon a heart so thick as that of the Dauphin, who really loved her. One day he sent for her to Choisy, and hid her in a mill without anything to eat or drink; for it was a fast day, and the Dauphin thought there was no greater sin than to eat meat on a fast day. After the Court had departed, all that he gave her for supper was some salad and toast with oil. Raisin laughed at this very much herself, and told several persons of it. When I heard of it I asked the Dauphin what he meant by making his mistress fast in this manner.

 "I had a mind," he said, "to commit one sin, but not two."

I cannot bear that any one should touch me behind; it makes me so angry that I do not know what I do. I was very near giving the Dauphin a blow one day, for he had a wicked trick of coming behind one for a joke, and putting his fist in the chair just where one was going to sit down. I begged him, for God's sake, to leave off this habit, which was so disagreeable to me that I would not answer for not one day giving him a sound blow, without thinking of what I was doing. From that time he left me alone.

 The Dauphin was very much like the Queen; he was not tall, but good- looking enough. Our King was accustomed to say: "Monseigneur (for so he always called him) has the look of a German prince." He had, indeed, something of a German air; but it was only the air; for he had nothing German besides. He did not dance well. The Queen-Dowager of Spain flattered herself with the hope of marrying him.

 He thought he should recommend himself to the King by not appearing to care what became of his brothers.

 When the Dauphin was lying sick of the small-pox, I went on the Wednesday to the King.

He said to me, sarcastically, "You have been frightening us with the great pain which Monseigneur would have to endure when the suppuration commences; but I can tell you that he will not suffer at all, for the pustules have already begun to dry."

 I was alarmed at this, and said, "So much the worse; if he is not in pain his state is the more dangerous, and he soon will be."

 "What!" said the King, "do you know better than the doctors?"

 "I know," I replied, "what the small-pox is by my own experience, which is better than all the doctors; but I hope from my heart that I may be mistaken."

 On the same night, soon after midnight, the Dauphin died.