THE ACCESSION OF CHARLES X
Thursday, the 16th of September, 1824, at the moment when Louis XVIII. was breathing his last in his chamber of the Chateau des Tuileries, the courtiers were gathered in the Gallery of Diana. It was four o’clock in the morning. The Duke and the Duchess of Angouleme, the Duchess of Berry, the Duke and the Duchess of Orleans, the Bishop of Hermopolis, and the physicians were in the chamber of the dying man. When the King had given up the ghost, the Duke of Angouleme, who became Dauphin, threw himself at the feet of his father, who became King, and kissed his hand with respectful tenderness. The princes and princesses followed this example, and he who bore thenceforward the title of Charles X., sobbing, embraced them all. They knelt about the bed. The De Profundis was recited. Then the new King sprinkled holy water on the body of his brother and kissed the icy hand. An instant later M. de Blacas, opening the door of the Gallery of Diana, called out: “Gentlemen, the King!” And Charles X. appeared.
Let us listen to the Duchess of Orleans. “At these words, in the twinkling of an eye, all the crowd of courtiers deserted the Gallery to surround and follow the new King. It was like a torrent. We were borne along by it, and only at the door of the Hall of the Throne, my husband bethought himself that we no longer had aught to do there. We returned home, reflecting much on the feebleness of our poor humanity, and the nothingness of the things of this world.”
Marshal Marmont, who was in the Gallery of Diana at the moment of the King’s death, was much struck by the two phrases pronounced at an instant’s interval by M. de Damas: “Gentlemen, the King is dead! The King, gentlemen!”
He wrote in his Memoirs: “It is difficult to describe the sensation produced by this double announcement in so brief a time. The new sovereign was surrounded by his officers, and everything except the person of the King was in the accustomed order. Beautiful and great thought, this uninterrupted life of the depository of the sovereign power! By this fiction there is no break in this protecting force, so necessary to the preservation of society.” The Marshal adds: “The government had been in fact for a year and more in the hands of Monsieur. Thus the same order of things was to continue; nevertheless, there was emotion perceptible on the faces of those present; one might see hopes spring up and existences wither. Every one accompanied the new King to his Pavilion of Marsan. He announced to his ministers that he confirmed them in their functions. Then every one withdrew.”
While the Duchess of Berry was present at the death of Louis XVIII., the Duke of Bordeaux and his sister, Mademoiselle, then, the one four, the other five years of age, remained at the Chateau of Saint Cloud, with the Governess of the Children of France, the Viscountess of Gontaut-Biron. This lady passed the night of the 15th of September in great anxiety. She listened on the balcony, awaiting and dreading the news.