About the beginning of May, 1774, Louis XV., the strength of whose constitution had promised a long enough life, was attacked by confluent smallpox of the worst kind. Mesdames at this juncture inspired the Dauphiness with a feeling of respect and attachment, of which she gave them repeated proofs when she ascended the throne. In fact, nothing was more admirable nor more affecting than the courage with which they braved that most horrible disease. The air of the palace was infected; more than fifty persons took the smallpox, in consequence of having merely loitered in the galleries of Versailles, and ten died of it.
The end of the monarch was approaching. His reign, peaceful in general, had inherited strength from the power of his predecessor; on the other hand, his own weakness had been preparing misfortune for whoever should reign after him. The scene was about to change; hope, ambition, joy, grief, and all those feelings which variously affected the hearts of the courtiers, sought in vain to disguise themselves under a calm exterior. It was easy to detect the different motives which induced them every moment to repeat to every one the question: “How is the King?” At length, on the 10th of May, 1774, the mortal career of Louis XV. terminated.
[Christopher de Beaumont, Archbishop of Paris, the ardent apostle of frequent communion, arrived at Paris with the intention of soliciting, in public, the administration of the sacrament to the King, and secretly retarding it as much as possible. The ceremony could not take place without the previous and public expulsion of the, concubine, according to the canons of the Church and the Jesuitical party, of which Christopher was the leader. This party, which had made use of Madame du Barry to suppress the Parliaments, to support the Duc d’Aiguillon, and ruin the Choiseul faction, could not willingly consent to disgrace her canonically. The Archbishop went into the King’s bedchamber, and found there Madame Adelaide, the Duc d’Aumont, the Bishop of Senlis, and Richelieu, in whose presence he resolved not to say one word about confession for that day. This reticence so encouraged Louis XV. that, on the Archbishop withdrawing, he had Madame du Barry called in, and kissed her beautiful hands again with his wonted affection. On the 2d of May the King found himself a little better. Madame du Barry had brought him two confidential physicians, Lorry and Borden, who were enjoined to conceal the nature of his sickness from him in order to keep off the priests and save her from a humiliating dismissal. The King’s improvement allowed Madame du Barry to divert him by her usual playfulness and conversation. But La Martiniere, who was of the Choiseul party, and to whom they durst not refuse his right of entry, did not conceal from the King either the nature or the danger of his sickness. The King then sent for Madame du Barry, and said to