Louis XV

King of France from 1715 to 1774

Louis XV (15 February 1710 – 10 May 1774), known as Louis the Beloved (French: le Bien-Aimé), was King of France from 1 September 1715 until his death in 1774. He succeeded his great-grandfather Louis XIV at the age of five. Until he reached maturity (then defined as his 13th birthday) in 1723, the kingdom was ruled by his grand-uncle Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, as Regent of France. Cardinal Fleury was chief minister from 1726 until his death in 1743, at which time the king took sole control of the kingdom.

Après moi, le déluge
After me, the deluge
  —Also attributed to Mme de Pompadour

Quotes edit

  • Sovereignty lies in me alone. The legislative power is mine unconditionally and indivisibly. The public order emanates from me, and I am its supreme guardian. My people is one with me.
  • Après nous le déluge!
  • After us, the deluge!
    • Després (J. B. D.) in his «Essai sur la Marquise de Pompadour» (Bibliothèque des Mémoires rélatifs a L’Histoire de France pendant le XVIIIe Siécle, ed. François Barriére, Paris, 1846, vol. iii. p. 33), says, Mme. de Pompadour dans l’ivresse de la prospérité, répondait à toutes les menaces de l'avenir par ces trois mots, qu'elle répétait souvent: Après nous, le déluge. Charles Desmaze in his Le Reliquaire de M. Q. de La Tour, Paris, 1874, p. 62, note) confirms this on the authority of de La Tour, who heard the Marquise use the expression himself, and told the story to Mdlle Fel, the singer. Larousse (Fleurs Historiques, Paris, 5th ed., n.d., pp. 46–7) cites Henri Martin, the historian (without any references whatever), for a reported conversation between Louis XV and his favourite, in which the king expressed his anxiety about the disturbing elements of the time—the clergy, the philosophers, and—above all—the parliaments, which he declared finiront par perdre L'État. Ce sont des assemblées de républicains! Au reste, les choses comme elles sont, dureront bien autant que moi. Berry [the Dauphin, afterwards Louis XVI] s’en tirera comme il pourra. Après moi le déluge! Martin’s own version of the conversation differs from this, and omits the critical words. (Histoire de la France, 1853, vol. 18, p. 103).
      The sentiment itself was anticipated by Nero, who on hearing some one repeat the line, Ἐμοῦ θανόντος γαῖα μειχθήτω πυρί (“When I am dead let earth with fire mingle”), rejoined, Immo, ἐμοῦ δἐ ζῶντος (“Aye, and while I am alive too!”): and, as Suetonius (Nero 38) goes on to say, “so it came about, for without any attempt at concealment he proceeded to set the city on fire.” The passage is from Phrynichus, Incert. Fab. 5, 17 (in Wagner’s ed., Paris, Poet. Trag. Gr. Fragmenta, p. 16), the complete distich being:—
      ἐμοῦ θανόντος γαῖα μιχθήτω πυρί
      οὐδὲν μέλει μοι· τἀμὰ γὰρ καλῶς ἔχει.

      When I am dead let th’ earth be fused with fire!
      I care not, I; for things go well with me.
      Claudian makes Rufinus exclaim:—
      Everso juvat orbe mori; solatia letho
      Exitium commune dabit.
      (Rufinus 2, 19)
      So the world perish, I'll not ask to live;
      Comfort in death the general doom will give.
    • Reported in W. F. H. King, ed., Classical and Foreign Quotations (1904), no. 142

Mémoires de Madame du Hausset edit

Quotes reported in Memoirs of the Courts of Louis XV and XVI, 2 vols. (Boston: L. C. Page & Co., Ltd., 1899)
  • The Duc de V—— was a nobleman of high rank and great wealth. He said to the King one evening at supper, “Your Majesty does me the favour to treat me with great kindness: I should be inconsolable if I had the misfortune to fall under your displeasure. If such a calamity were to befall me, I should endeavour to divert my grief by improving some beautiful estates of mine in such and such a province;” and he thereupon gave a description of three or four fine seats. About a month after, talking of the disgrace of a Minister, he said, “I hope your Majesty will not withdraw your favour from me; but if I had the misfortune to lose it, I should be more to be pitied than anybody, for I have no asylum in which to hide my head.” All those present, who had heard the description of the beautiful country houses, looked at each other and laughed. The King said to Madame de Pompadour, who sat next to him at table, “People are very right in saying that a liar ought to have a good memory.
  • When the Marechal de Belle-Isle’s son was killed in battle, Madame persuaded the King to pay his father a visit. He was rather reluctant, and Madame said to him, with an air half angry, half playful:
      ————Barbare! don’t l’orgueil
      Croit le sang d’un sujet trop pays d’un coup d’oeil.
    The King laughed, and said, “Whose fine verses are those?”—“Voltaire’s,” said Madame ———.
    “As barbarous as I am, I gave him the place of gentleman in ordinary, and a pension,” said the King.
  • The King was often annoyed by the Parliaments, and said a very remarkable thing concerning them, which M. de Gontaut repeated to Doctor Quesnay in my presence. “Yesterday,” said he, “the King walked up and down the room with an anxious air. Madame de Pompadour asked him if he was uneasy about his health, as he had been, for some time, rather unwell. ‘No,’ replied he; ‘but I am greatly annoyed by all these remonstrances.’—‘What can come of them,’ said she, ‘that need seriously disquiet Your Majesty? Are you not master of the Parliaments, as well as of all the rest of the kingdom?’—‘That is true,’ said the King; ‘but, if it had not been for these counsellors and presidents, I should never have been stabbed by that gentleman’ (he always called Damiens so). ‘Ah! Sire,’ cried Madame de Pompadour. ‘Read the trial,’ said he. ‘It was the language of those gentlemen he names which turned his head.’—‘But,’ said Madame, ‘I have often thought that, if the Archbishop—[M. de Beaumont]—could be sent to Rome—’—‘Find anybody who will accomplish that business, and I will give him whatever he pleases.’” Quesnay said the King was right in all he had uttered. The Archbishop was exiled shortly after, and the King was seriously afflicted at being driven to take such a step. “What a pity,” he often said, “that so excellent a man should be so obstinate.”—“And so shallow,” said somebody, one day. “Hold your tongue,” replied the King, somewhat sternly. The Archbishop was very charitable, and liberal to excess, but he often granted pensions without discernment.
    He granted one of an hundred louis to a pretty woman, who was very poor, and who assumed an illustrious name, to which she had no right. The fear lest she should be plunged into vice led him to bestow such excessive bounty upon her; and the woman was an admirable dissembler. She went to the Archbishop’s, covered with a great hood, and, when she left him, she amused herself with a variety of lovers.
    Great people have the bad habit of talking very indiscreetly before their servants. M. de Gontaut once said these words, covertly, as he thought, to the Duc de ———, “That measures had been taken which would, probably, have the effect of determining the Archbishop to go to Rome, with a Cardinal’s hat; and that, if he desired it, he was to have a coadjutor.”
    A very plausible pretext had been found for making this proposition, and for rendering it flattering to the Archbishop, and agreeable to his sentiments. The affair had been very adroitly begun, and success appeared certain. The King had the air, towards the Archbishop, of entire unconsciousness of what was going on. The negotiator acted as if he were only following the suggestions of his own mind, for the general good. He was a friend of the Archbishop, and was very sure of a liberal reward. A valet of the Duc de Gontaut, a very handsome young fellow, had perfectly caught the sense of what was spoken in a mysterious manner. He was one of the lovers of the lady of the hundred Louis a year, and had heard her talk of the Archbishop, whose relation she pretended to be. He thought he should secure her good graces by informing her that great efforts were being made to induce her patron to reside at Rome, with a view to get him away from Paris. The lady instantly told the Archbishop, as she was afraid of losing her pension if he went. The information squared so well with the negotiation then on foot, that the Archbishop had no doubt of its truth. He cooled, by degrees, in his conversations with the negotiator, whom he regarded as a traitor, and ended by breaking with him. These details were not known till long afterwards. The lover of the lady having been sent to the Bicetre, some letters were found among his papers, which gave a scent of the affair, and he was made to confess the rest.
    In order not to compromise the Duc de Gontaut, the King was told that the valet had come to a knowledge of the business from a letter which he had found in his master’s clothes. The King took his revenge by humiliating the Archbishop, which he was enabled to do by means of the information he had obtained concerning the conduct of the lady, his protege. She was found guilty of swindling, in concert with her beloved valet; but, before her punishment was inflicted, the Lieutenant of Police was ordered to lay before Monseigneur a full account of the conduct of his relation and pensioner. The Archbishop had nothing to object to in the proofs which were submitted to him; he said, with perfect calmness, that she was not his relation; and, raising his hands to heaven, “She is an unhappy wretch,” said he, “who has robbed me of the money which was destined for the poor. But God knows that, in giving her so large a pension, I did not act lightly. I had, at that time, before my eyes the example of a young woman who once asked me to grant her seventy louis a year, promising me that she would always live very virtuously, as she had hitherto done. I refused her, and she said, on leaving me, ‘I must turn to the left, Monseigneur, since the way on the right is closed against me: The unhappy creature has kept her word but too well. She found means of establishing a faro-table at her house, which is tolerated; and she joins to the most profligate conduct in her own person the infamous trade of a corrupter of youth; her house is the abode of every vice. Think, sir, after that, whether it was not an act of prudence, on my part, to grant the woman in question a pension, suitable to the rank in which I thought her born, to prevent her abusing the gifts of youth, beauty, and talents, which she possessed, to her own perdition, and the destruction of others.” The Lieutenant of Police told the King that he was touched with the candour and the noble simplicity of the prelate. “I never doubted his virtues,” replied the King, “but I wish he would be quiet.” This same Archbishop gave a pension of fifty louis a year to the greatest scoundrel in Paris. He is a poet, who writes abominable verses; this pension is granted on condition that his poems are never printed. I learned this fact from M. de Marigny, to whom he recited some of his horrible verses one evening, when he supped with him, in company with some people of quality. He chinked the money in his pocket. “This is my good Archbishop’s,” said he, laughing; “I keep my word with him: my poem will not be printed during my life, but I read it. What would the good prelate say if he knew that I shared my last quarter’s allowance with a charming little opera-dancer? ‘It is the Archbishop, then, who keeps me,’ said she to me; ‘Oh, la! how droll that is!’” The King heard this, and was much scandalised at it. “How difficult it is to do good!” said he.
  • I, one day, found Quesnay in great distress. “Mirabeau,” said he, “is sent to Vincennes, for his work on taxation. The Farmers General have denounced him, and procured his arrest; his wife is going to throw herself at the feet of Madame de Pompadour to-day.” A few minutes afterwards, I went into Madame’s apartment, to assist at her toilet, and the Doctor came in. Madame said to him, “You must be much concerned at the disgrace of your friend Mirabeau. I am sorry for it too, for I like his brother.” Quesnay replied, “I am very far from believing him to be actuated by bad intentions, Madame; he loves the King and the people.” “Yes,” said she; “his ‘Ami des Hommes’ did him great honour.” At this moment the Lieutenant of Police entered, and Madame said to him, “Have you seen M. de Mirabeau’s book?”—“Yes, Madame; but it was not I who denounced it?”—“What do you think of it?”—“I think he might have said almost all it contains with impunity, if he had been more circumspect as to the manner; there is, among other objectionable passages, this, which occurs at the beginning: Your Majesty has about twenty millions of subjects; it is only by means of money that you can obtain their services, and there is no money.”—“What, is there really that, Doctor?” said Madame. “It is true, they are the first lines in the book, and I confess that they are imprudent; but, in reading the work, it is clear that he laments that patriotism is extinct in the hearts of his fellow-citizens, and that he desires to rekindle it.” The King entered: we went out, and I wrote down on Quesnay’s table what I had just heard. I them returned to finish dressing Madame de Pompadour: she said to me, “The King is extremely angry with Mirabeau; but I tried to soften him, and so did the Lieutenant of Police. This will increase Quesnay’s fears. Do you know what he said to me to-day? The King had been talking to him in my room, and the Doctor appeared timid and agitated. After the King was gone, I said to him, ‘You always seem so embarrassed in the King’s presence, and yet he is so good-natured.’—‘I Madame,’ said he, ‘I left my native village at the age of forty, and I have very little experience of the world, nor can I accustom myself to its usages without great difficulty. When I am in a room with the King, I say to myself, This is a man who can order my head to be cut off; and that idea embarrasses me.’—‘But do not the King’s justice and kindness set you at ease?’—‘That is very true in reasoning,’ said he; ‘but the sentiment is more prompt, and inspires me with fear before I have time to say to myself all that is calculated to allay it.’”

About edit

  • Le silence du peuple est la lecon des rois.
  • A people's silence is a lesson to their kings.
    • Sermons de Messire J. B. Charles Marie de Beauvais, Evéque de Senez, Paris, 1807, vol. iv. p. 243 (Oraison Funébre de Louis XV, le Bien-aimé, 8. Denis, Juillet 27, 1774)
    • The passage is as follows:—Le peuple n’a pas, sans doute, le droit de murmurer; mais, sans doute aussi, il a le droit de se taire; et son silence est la leçon des rois.—“The people, no doubt, has not the right to murmur; but, as certainly also, it has the right to hold its peace, and the people’s silence is a lesson to its king.” The preacher was contrasting the unpopularity of the king’s latter years with the earlier part of his reign. On the Good Friday previous (1 April 1774), the same prelate in the course of his sermon had said, Sire, mon devoir de ministre d’un Dieu de vérité m’ordonne de vous dire que vos peuples sont malheureux, que vous en étes la cause, et qu’on vous le laisse ignorer.—“Sire, my duty as minister of the God of Truth compels me to tell you that your people are wretched, that you are the cause of their misery, and that you are left in ignorance of the fact.” His text was Jonas iii. 4: “Yet forty days, and Ninive shall be destroyed”; and forty days (to a day) afterwards, 10 May, Louis died—a literal fulfilment to which the orator refers in the Funeral Discourse (ibid. p. 217). V. Nouvelle Biographie Générale (Didot), s.v. BEAUVAIS. The bishop’s words were not forgotten, and on the morrow of the taking of the Bastille, 15 July 1789, when the National Assembly (Versailles) was momentarily expecting, with feelings of relief and even of joy, the entry of the King, “one of the members” observed, Qu’un morne respect soit le premier accueil fait au monarque dans un moment de douleur. Le silence des peuples est la leçon des rois. Hugou (N.J.), Mémoires de la Révolution de France, Paris, 1790, vol. 8, p. 269. Thiers, in his Révolution Francaise (vol. 1, chap. 2), quotes Hugou’s words, and makes the “member” to be Mirabeau.
    • Reported in: Classical and Foreign Quotations (1904), no. 1366
  • Un prince est le premier serviteur et le premier magistrat de l’État.
  • A prince is the first servant and the first magistrate of the State.
    • Frederick II, Mémoires de Brandebourg (Œuvres, ed. Preuss., vol. 1, p. 123)
    • See Georg Büchmann, Geflügelte Worte (19th ed., 1898), pp. 520–1, who records no less than six different places in which Frederick enunciated this maxim, and each time in the French, and not the German language.
    • In 1717 (25 March) Massillon, preaching before Louis XV, reminded the nine-year-old king: Ce n’est pas le souverain, c’est la loi, Sire, qui doit regner sur les peuples. Vous n’en êtes que le ministre et le premier dépositaire.—“It is not the sovereign, but the law, that should be supreme over nations. You are only the law's minister, and its chief trustee.” Suetonius (Tiberius 29) makes Tiberius openly declare in senate, that “a good and serviceable prince ought to be the servant both of the senate and of the whole body of citizens” (bonum et salutarem principem ... senatui servire debere, et universis civibus).
    • Reported in: Classical and Foreign Quotations (1904), no. 2832
  • I took a pen, which lay on the Doctor’s table, and begged M. Duclos to repeat to me all the names he had mentioned, and the eulogium he had bestowed on each. “If,” said he, “you show that to the Marquise, tell her how the conversation arose, and that I did not say it in order that it might come to her ears, and eventually, perhaps, to those of another person. I am an historiographer, and I will render justice, but I shall, also, often inflict it.”—“I will answer for that,” said the Doctor, “and our master will be represented as he really is. Louis XIV liked verses, and patronised poets; that was very well, perhaps, in his time, because one must begin with something; but this age will be very superior to the last. It must be acknowledged that Louis XV, in sending astronomers to Mexico and Peru, to measure the earth, has a higher claim to our respect than if he directed an opera. He has thrown down the barriers which opposed the progress of philosophy, in spite of the clamour of the devotees: the Encyclopaedia will do honour to his reign.”
    • Reported in: Memoirs of the Courts of Louis XV and XVI (1899)
  • The development of foreign ministries further restricted the scope for summitry. But rulers often retained their own private diplomatic networks. Louis XV was a prime example, while Frederick the Great of Prussia created his own Kabinett, or private office, and took over the most important business from the Foreign Office. Not surprisingly, Frederick also tried his hand at summitry: seeking a rapprochement with Austria after the Seven Years War, he met the emperor Joseph II at Neisse in 1769 and Neustadt in 1770.
    • David Reynolds, Summits: Six Meetings that Changed the Twentieth Century (2007), p. 19

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