Incessant quarrelling and intriguing within the Tuileries was the consequence, and Louis was often dejected, uneasy, and angry, in the midst of the splendor that surrounded him.
“I am angry with myself and the others,” said he on one occasion to an intimate friend. “An invisible and secret power is ever working in opposition to my will, frustrating my plans, and paralyzing my authority.”
“And yet you are king!”
“Undoubtedly I am king!” exclaimed Louis, angrily; “but am I also master? The king is he who all his life long receives ambassadors, gives tiresome audiences, listens to annihilating discourses, goes in state to Notre-Dame, dines in public once a year, and is pompously buried in St. Denis when he dies. The master is he who commands and can enforce obedience, who puts an end to intriguing, and can silence old women as well as priests. Bonaparte was king and master at the same time! His ministers were his clerks, the kings his brothers merely his agents, and his courtiers nothing more than his servants. His ministers vied with his senate in servility, and his Corps Legislatif sought to outdo his senate and the church in subserviency. He was an extraordinary and an enviable man, for he had not only devoted servants and faithful friends, but also an accommodating church.”
[Footnote 37: Memoires d’une Femme de Qualite, vol. v., p. 35.]
King Louis XVIII., weary of the incessant intrigues with which his courtiers occupied themselves, withdrew himself more and more into the retirement of his palace, and left the affairs of state to the care of M. de Blacas, who, with all his arrogance and egotism, knew very little about governing.
The king preferred to entertain himself with his friends, to read them portions of his memoirs, to afford them an opportunity of admiring his verses, and to regale them with his witty and not always chaste anecdotes; he preferred all these things to tedious and useless disputes with his ministers. He had given his people the charter, and his ministers might now govern in accordance with this instrument.
“The people demand liberty,” said the king. “I give them enough of it to protect them against despotism, without according them unbridled license. Formerly, the taxes appointed by my mere will would have made me odious; now the people tax themselves. Hereafter, I have nothing to do but to confer benefits and show mercy, for the responsibility for all the evil that is done will rest entirely with my ministers.”
[Footnote 38: Memoires d’une Femme de Qualite, vol. i., p. 410.]
While his ministers were thus governing according to the charter, and “doing evil,” the king, who now had nothing but “good” to do, was busying himself in settling the weighty questions of the old etiquette.
One of the most important features of this etiquette was the question of the fashions that should now be introduced at court; for it was, of course, absurd to think of adopting the fashions of the empire, and thereby recognize at court that there had really been a change since 1789.