A Short History of France eBook

Mary Platt Parmele
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 173 pages of information about A Short History of France.

Louis XV. was five years old when, in 1715, he became heir to a throne absolutely rigid.  The best work of Richelieu and Mazarin and Louis XIV. had been expended upon it.  Absolutism could go no farther.  The king was all; next below him a fawning, obsequious nobility, and then that vague entity known as “the people,” a remote invisible force, sustaining the weight of the splendid pyramid, the apex of which was this boy of five.

The young Louis was being prepared to sit upon this giddy elevation.  The Duke of Orleans, his accomplished cousin, a competent instructor in vice, was chosen as regent, and the royal education began.  The best and rarest of the world’s culture was at his service.  Fenelon, the polished ecclesiastic, fed him the classics in tempting form from his own Telemaque, written for the purpose.  Although this work was later suppressed by the boy’s royal father under the suspicion of being a covert satire upon his own reign, in which Madame de Montespan was represented by Calypso; and other famous or infamous members of his court also appeared in thin disguise.

The handsome boy was breathing the atmosphere of genius created by an age which compares well with those of Pericles and Augustus and the Medici, and nourished at the same time by the exhalations from a new crop of vices growing out of the decaying remains of those left by the old court.


Such was the preparation for a supreme crisis in the life of the Kingdom.

The enormous debt left by the last reign taxed the ingenuity of the regent to its utmost.  Then it was that John Law, the Scotchman, presented his great financial scheme of making unlimited wealth out of paper, which was just what the regent needed.  The collapse came quickly, in 1720, bringing ruin to thousands, and leaving the country in more desperate need than before.

When declared of age, in 1723, a marriage was arranged for Louis with Marie Leczinska, daughter of the exiled Polish King Stanislas.  Europe at this time was agitated over the succession to the throne of Austria, as the empire was now called.  The Salic Law excluded female heirs, and the emperor, Charles VI., had died in 1718, leaving only a daughter, Maria Theresa, one year old.  But a pragmatic sanction, once more invoked, seems to have covered the necessities of the situation by providing that the succession in the absence of a male heir might descend to a female, and so there was a young and beautiful empress on the throne at Vienna, who was going to make a great deal of history for Europe; and who would open her brilliant reign by a valiant fight for possession of Silesia, which the young king of Prussia intended to seize as an addition to his own new kingdom.  This young King Frederick was also making history very fast, and after a stormy career was going to convert his Kingdom into a Power, and to be the one

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A Short History of France from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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