Although France had gained materially at their expense in the treaties of Westphalia and of the Pyrenees, much remained to be done by Louis XIV. When the Grand Monarch assumed direct control of affairs in 1661, the Spanish Habsburgs still ruled not only the peninsular kingdom south of France, but the Belgian Netherlands to the north, Franche Comte to the east, and Milan in northern Italy, while their kinsmen of Austria maintained shadowy imperial government over the rich Rhenish provinces on the northeastern boundary of France.
Colbert was mistaken in his fears for Louis XIV.'s glory; if the expenses of Versailles surpassed his most gloomy apprehensions, the palace which rose upon the site of Louis XIV.'s former hunting-box was worthy of the king who had made it in his own image, and who managed to retain all his court around him there, by the mere fact of his will and of his royal presence.
A sort of Louis XIV writing-desk with ornaments of engraved brass stood face to face with a large gilded and painted Louis XV pier table on which a lamp was burning beside a lofty crucifix. The room was virtually bare, only three arm-chairs and four or five other chairs, upholstered in light silk, being disposed here and there over the well-worn carpet.
The common people were kept under. But the domestic government of Richelieu made it possible for the selfish and ruinous policy of Louis XIV. to arise. The key of his foreign policy was hostility to Austria and Spain, to both branches of the Hapsburgs. Before he took active measures against them, he had to procure quiet in France, and to provide himself with money and troops.
I have in my possession a copy of this precious document, bearing the signature of Don Alonzo Nunez de Haro y Peralto. And the proclamation farther informs us that his holiness, Benedict XIV., was so fully persuaded of the truth of the tradition, that he made "cordial devotion to our Lady of Guadalupe, and conceded the proper mass and ritual of devotion.
The façade towards the Seine, though heavy, is grand and imposing, adorned by the statue of Louis the XIV, and colossal figures of Mars, Minerva, Justice and Prudence, in bas-relief, and at the sides by emblematical representations of the four nations conquered by the founder.
Europe had mistaken hopes of forcing Louis XIV. to give up all his conquests. Twenty years of wars and reverses were not to suffice for that.
At the opening of the reign of Louis XIV. in France, several writers, in the general dearth of prose fiction, began to supply the public in Paris with a series of long romances, which for at least a generation absorbed the attention of the ladies and reigned unopposed in every boudoir.
Lord Castleton did not content himself with a mere bow at our introduction. Much to my wonder how he came by the information he displayed, he made me a little speech after the manner of Louis XIV. to a provincial noble, studiously modelled upon that royal maxim of urbane policy which instructs a king that he should know something of the birth, parentage, and family of his meanest gentleman.
It seemed as if the United Provinces were going to be subdued, as Franche-Comte had been five years before. But Louis XIV had been too much intoxicated by that pride which goes before a fall to retain any clearness of head, if indeed he ever had any, in military matters.