Once in the antechamber of King Louis XVIII., while the Marquis de Chimene and the Duke de Lauraguais, two old heroes of the frivolous era, in which the boudoir and the petites maisons were the battle-field, and the myrtle instead of the laurel the reward of victory, while these gentlemen were conversing of some occurrence under the old government, the Duke de Lauraguais, in order to more nearly fix the date of the occurrence of which they were speaking, remarked to the marquis, “It was in the year in which I had my liaison with your wife.”
“Ah, yes,” replied the marquis, with perfect composure, “that was in the year 1776.”
Neither of the gentlemen found anything strange in this allusion to the past. The liaison in question had been a perfectly commonplace matter, and it would have been as ridiculous in the duke to deny it as for the marquis to have shown any indignation.
The wisest and most enlightened of all these gentlemen was their head, King Louis XVIII. himself.
He was well aware of the errors of those who surrounded him, and placed but little confidence in the representatives of the old court. But he was nevertheless powerless to withdraw himself from their influence, and after he had accorded the people the charter, in opposition to the will and opinion of the whole royal family, of his whole court and of his ministers, and had sworn to support it in spite of the opposition of “Monsieur” and the Prince de Conde, who was in the habit of calling the charter “Mademoiselle la Constitution de 1791,” Louis withdrew to the retirement of his apartments in the Tuileries, and left his minister Blacas to attend to the little details of government, the king deeming the great ones only worthy of his attention.
KING LOUIS XVIII.
King Louis XVIII. was, however, in the retirement of his palace, still the most enlightened and unprejudiced of the representatives of the old era; he clearly saw many things to which his advisers purposely closed their eyes. To his astonishment, he observed that the men who had risen to greatness under Bonaparte, and who had fallen to the king along with the rest of his inheritance, were not so ridiculous, awkward, and foolish, as they had been represented to be.
“I had been made to suppose,” said Louis XVIII., “that these generals of Bonaparte were peasants and ruffians, but such is not the case. He schooled these men well. They are polite, and quite as shrewd as the representatives of the old court. We must conduct ourselves very cautiously toward them.”
This kind of recognition of the past which sometimes escaped Louis XVIII., was a subject of bitter displeasure to the gentlemen of the old era, and they let the king perceive it.
King Louis felt this, and, in order to conciliate his court, he often saw himself compelled to humiliate “the parvenus” who had forced themselves among the former.