Saturday, January 11, 2003

Memoirs Of Louis XIV And The Regency, Vol. III, Chapter II (excerpt) -- byt the Duke of Saint-Simon


By the


Vol. III


Daily Occupations of Madame de Maintenon--Her Policy--How She Governed the King's Affairs -- Connivance with the Ministers....

IT MUST not be imagined that in order to maintain her position Madame de Maintenon had need of no address. Her reign, on the contrary, was only one continual intrigue; and that of the King a perpetual dupery.

Her mornings, which she commenced very early, were occupied with obscure audiences for charitable or spiritual affairs. Pretty often, at eight o'clock in the morning, or earlier, she went to some minister; the ministers of war, above all those of finance, were those with whom she had most business.

Ordinarily as soon as she rose, she went to St. Cyr, dined in her apartment there alone, or with some favorite of the house, gave as few audiences as possible, ruled over the arrangements of the establishment, meddled with the affairs of convents, read and replied to letters, directed the affairs of the house, received information and letters from her spies, and returned to Versailles just as the King was to enter her rooms. When older and more infirm, she would lie down in bed on arriving between seven and eight o'clock in the morning at St. Cyr, or take some remedy.

Toward nine o'clock in the evening two waiting women came to undress her. Immediately afterward, her maitre d' hotel or a valet de chambre brought her her supper--soup or something light. As soon as she had finished her meal, her women put her to bed, and all this in the presence of the King and his minister, who did not cease working or speak lower. This done, ten o'clock had arrived; the curtains of Madame de Maintenon were drawn, and the King went to supper, after saying good night to her.

When with the King in her own room, they each occupied an arm chair, with a table between them, at either side of the fireplace, hers toward the bed, the King's with the back to the wall, where was the door of the antechamber ; two stools were before the table, one for the minister who came to work, the other for his papers.

During the work Madams de Maintenon read or worked at tapestry. She heard all that passed between the King and his minister, for they spoke out loud. Rarely did she say anything, or, if so, it was of no moment. The King often asked her opinion; then she replied with great discretion. Never did she appear to lay stress on anything, still less to interest herself for anybody, but she had an understanding with the minister, who did not dare to oppose her in private, still less to trip in her presence. When some favor or some post was to be granted, the matter was arranged between them beforehand; and this it was that sometimes delayed her, without the King or anybody knowing the cause.

She would send word to the minister that she wished to speak to him. He did not dare to bring anything forward until he had received her orders; until the revolving mechanism of each day had given them the leisure to confer together. That done, the minister proposed and showed a list. If by chance the King stopped at the name Madame de Maintenon wished, the minister stopped too, and went no further. If the King stopped at some other, the minister proposed that he should look at those which were also fitting, allowed the King leisure to make his observations, and profited by them, to exclude the people who were not wanted. Rarely did he propose expressly the name to which he wished to come, but always suggested several that he tried to balance against each other, so as to embarrass the King in his choice. Then the King asked his opinion, and the minister, after touching upon other names, fixed upon the one he had selected.

The King nearly always hesitated, and asked Madame de Maintenon what she thought. She smiled, shammed incapacity, said a word upon some other name, then returned, if she had not fixed herself there at first; to that which the minister had proposed; so that three-fourths of the favors and opportunities which passed through the hands of the ministers in her rooms--and three-fourths even of the remaining fourth--were disposed of by her. Sometimes when she had nobody for whom she cared, it was the minister, with her consent and her help, who decided, without the King having the least suspicion. He thought he disposed of everything by himself; while, in fact, he disposed only of the smallest part, and always then by chance, except on the rare occasions when he specially wished to favor some one.

As for state matters, if Madame de Maintenon wished to make them succeed, fail, or turn in some particular fashion (which happened much less often than where favors and appointments were in the wind), the same intelligence and the same intrigue were carried on between herself and the minister. By these particulars it will be seen that this clever woman did nearly all she wished, but not when or how she wished.

There was another scheme if the King stood out: it was to avoid decision by confusing and spinning out the matter in hand, or by substituting another as though arising opportunely out of it, and by which it was turned aside, or by proposing that some explanations should be obtained. The first ideas of the King were thus awakened, and the charge was afterward returned to, with the same address, oftentimes with success.

It is this which made the ministers so necessary to Madame de Maintenon, and her so necessary to them. She rendered them, in fact, continual services by means of the King, in return for the services they rendered her. The mutual concerns therefore, between her and them were infinite; the King, all the while, not having the slightest suspicion of what was going on!

The power of Madame de Maintenon was, as may be imagined, immense. She had everybody in her hands, from the highest and most favored ministers to the meanest subject of the realm. Many people have been ruined by her, without having been able to discover the author of the ruin, search as they might. All attempts to find a remedy were equally unsuccessful....