Tag Archive: parenting

The Dauphin’s diary, started in 1766, rarely mentions outings and distractions.  Pierrette Girault de Coursac speaks of a “sort of incarceration”.  This was his father’s wish, and his mother continues to apply it.  Mr de La Vauguyon’s intercession is necessary for the child to obtain permission to take a riding lesson or follow a hunt in an open carriage.

But soon, the Dauphin will no longer have to obey the Dauphine’s orders.  Just when the child was beginning to conquer, through his piety and his uprightness, the affection and confidence of his mother, destiny sets off the first signs of alarm.

Although the doctors wanted to hide the fact, the state of health of Marie-Josephe of Saxe could no longer conceal the cruel truth.  While caring for her husband, she had caught pulmonary tuberculosis.  The symptoms are unmistakable:  continual coughing, suffocation, fever, extreme thinness…  A visitor will even write:

“I thought that I was talking to death itself, she was so disfigured.”

Her entourage watch, powerless, her terrible demise.  Friday 13 March 1767, having used up her last strength, she falls into a fainting fit after having drunk a cup of chocolate.

On this day, there is only one line in the Dauphin’s diary:

“Death of my mother at eight o’clock this evening.”

However, we must not make the mistake of drawing hasty conclusions about the dryness of this note.  It is in a jagged writing, hiding extreme suffering and inerrable pain.

In the weeks which preceded the death of his mother, there are many mentions of the Dauphin which show his sickly aspect and his sombre expression.  His red eyes even lead some people to think that he is suffering from a precocious myopia.  As for his general allure, it is no better.  The boy is thin, even skinny, his walk is clumsy.  All of these elements combined start a rumour that the child will soon join those who have preceded him into the kingdom of the dead.

In fact, this rumour demonstrates the secret wish of the whole court.  The death of the prince would leave the position free for the Count of Provence, loved by all.  Xavier of Saxe writes at this epoch:

“My Lord the Dauphin is very delicate and Monsieur the Count of Provence will always be a great catch… “

This rumour is so amplified that it will influence even those who, later, will search through the prince’s Journal.  There where it is written:  “I was confirmed”, they will think that they have read:  “I was infirm”.  And, in the list of expenses written in the book, you would never guess that the “glasses” acquired are…  astronomical glasses, or telescopes.

Mr de La Vauguyon profits again from the circumstances.  From this moment on, there will be no more obstacles to the application of his educational theories.  In the diverse manuals which he used, he highlights virtue as being the most important.  He affirms that “if he ignores firmness” the sovereign will call down upon his person “the anger of the heavens, the hate of his subjects and the scorn of nations”.  He insists:

“Firmness is for all men, and particularly for Princes, a virtue so absolutely necessary that without it all others are nothing.  In fact, however Pious, however Good, however Just you may be, if you are not Firm, you will understand no principle, your best dispositions will have no effect…  Born virtuous without really being so, you will accept that vice triumphs and dares to oppress merit and innocence.”

He also warns the prince against indecision, which is the consequence of weakness.  Absolute monarchy cannot pactise with these faults:  the king is the only master, it is up to him to make all the decisions.  He incites his pupil not to confuse this virtue with its corresponding vice:  stubbornness, which

“persuades a prince that he can do anything that he wants and everything that he has conceived without allowing him to listen to reason and submit his projects to a considered examination;  this makes him a sort of monster who becomes the flayer of the peoples whom God has given to his care”.

It has been concluded from this teaching that the virtue of firmness, so exalted by his preceptor, must have been lacking in the prince.  And this suspicion is not without some foundation.  The perspective of governing uncontestably causes him some fear.  Mr de La Vauguyon even evokes one day “a way of diminishing his terrors and weaken in him the idea of difficulties”.  But this doesn’t mean that the virtue of firmness is totally foreign to the prince.

In all of his writings, he places this quality above all others.  And it is not just vague theoretic elucubrations.  He insists also on its practical application and on the necessity, consequently, of preserving the absolute character of the French monarchy.  Gradually, he prepares himself for the duties to which he will be called.  He describes the arguments to which he will try to conform his conduct:

“I sense that I owe to God, to the choice that he has made for me to reign, to the virtues of my ancestors, to immediately leave childhood and make myself worthy of the throne on which one day I could be seated;  that for this reason, I should neglect nothing to become a really pious, good, just and firm prince;  that I can only acquire these qualities by hard work, and that I make the resolution to give myself up to it completely.”

In another Entretien, he even affirms that firmness is a natural character trait for him, of which he must avoid the excesses.  Gradually, he forges his character and believes himself ready to affront the tempests that the heavens might wish to send him…

Is he really?  His masters have certainly taught him the principles which should guide his reign.  But they painted him a picture of a paternal monarchy, while keeping him far away from the preoccupations of their times.  The education given to him, based on moralistic and rigoristic theories, show the flaws which will shake his timid authority…  This is why the pedagogy of Mr de La Vauguyon has been particularly criticised by posterity.

Apart from the contents of this teaching, the educator has been reproached with having voluntarily kept the prince in ignorance and fear to reinforce his own influence.  It would seem that the Duke of Berry was not deceived by this.  In fact, later on, when he had to choose a preceptor for his son, he will decline the services of the young Duke de La Vauguyon, saying to him:  “I am upset to have to refuse you, but you know that you and I have been raised very badly.”

To be continued.


One day, on the pretext that the Duke of Berry, future King Louis XVI, has not been assiduous enough in his studies, his father, the Dauphin, decides to punish him by depriving him of the Great Hunt of Saint Hubert, a sacred ritual in the royal family’s calendar.  The Dauphin’s entourage try to have the punishment attenuated, without success.  This punishment, inflicted while the Dauphin is already confined to bed, is however, the last he will give.

The 19 October, 1765, the Children of France are advised to prepare themselves for the death of their father.  The Duke of Berry is unable to hold back his tears.  Marie-Josephe of Saxe writes:

“In the conversation, the Dauphin says to the Duke of Berry:  “Well, my son, did you really think that I only had a cold?”  Then, laughing, and joking about it, he added:  “Doubtless, when you learned of my state of health, you said to yourself:  good, he won’t prevent me from going hunting any more!” “

So this last punishment remained engraved in the affective memory of this very sensitive child, and is singularly intertwined with this new tragedy.  A remorseless malediction seems to weigh down this young life, punctuated with miseries and sufferings.  He could repeat one of the last sentences of his father, which still resounds in his memory:  “I wish all sorts of happiness and benedictions for my children”, reasonably, he is unable to believe it.

For his mother, it is also a fatal blow.  The idea of death attacking the royal family becomes an obsession for her.  Living in its constant company, she starts to call it to her, and ardently desire it.  She installs around her, black draperies and a copy of the funeral monument erected for her husband…  this tomb which seems to her “more beautiful than all the palaces of the universe”.  Jean-Francois Chiappe comments:

“Louis-Auguste, having lost his father, has a living corpse for a mother”.

She devotes her days to prayers and pious readings, inciting her children to spend their time in study and prayer.  She refuses all distractions and dresses austerely to make “her face as clear as her soul”.  In a highly symbolic gesture, she cuts her hair.

Once again, the new Dauphin has to assume the role of scapegoat.  The 31 March 1766, Easter Day, he occupies his father’s place at the church service, following the Mass for the first time as the second highest-ranking person in the kingdom.  This is another “dagger blow” for the widow, for which she blames the innocent boy.  Later, she will reproach him for not having spoken to her enough about the dead man – while accusing her father-in-law, Louis XV, of reminding her of him with too much insistence by his frequent visits.

Mr de La Vauguyon seizes on this painful event to present his pupil with a new example to follow in his Recueil abrege des vertus de Monseigneur le dauphin.  At his pressing invitation, the Duke of Berry plunges again into the horrors of illness and suffering.  From then on, his governor will profit from every occasion to revive his pain, like a fire that is stirred to stop it from going out.  One of these moments is the Requiem Mass sung for the repose of the dead man’s soul, accompanied by a funeral prayer which furnished a timely reminder of moral edification.

“The sad ceremony which you have just attended has renewed all your pain:  my eyes bathed in tears, saw yours flow.  We have therefore rendered our last duties to Mr le Dauphin…  He deigned to honour me with his friendship and his confidence, he gave me the greatest proof of that in charging me to take his place at your side and teach you to become worthy of him…  How many times did he say to me:  “Will my son know that, raised above other men, he remains, himself, a man?” “


It is therefore in this austere climate, encumbered by phantoms and spectres, that the prince’s childhood will continue.  Illnesses, deaths and sufferings one after the other.  The 23 February 1766, his great-grandfather – King Stanislas of Poland – succumbs from an atrocious accident.  After having revived the fire in his hearth, he approached it to warm himself.  But his clothes took fire and the poor man, screaming in pain, fell into the grate.  Before his death, he was able to leave a few precious words of advice to his great-grandson, commenting a work of Machiavelli in a prophetic tone:

“Of all the bad things which can happen to a nation, there are none for which attention to preventing them is not a remedy […].  But there are some bad things, according to a famous politician, like illnesses of langour and consumption, at first easy to cure and difficult to recognize, and as they progress, very easy to recognize and very difficult to cure.  There is no doubt that a prudent wisdom, which sees the unhappy things of State at an early stage, can easily prevent them from coming to a head.  But, if they haven’t been seen, and they explode and you are unable to discover the cause or the nature of them, then it is almost impossible to stop their course…” 

To be continued.

Christina of Sweden’s childhood is spent in an atmosphere of nightmare and sobbing.  She even has to suffer it at night because her mother insists on having her by her side, even in her bed.  Her already fragile temperament must have been affected by such behaviour.

As well as this, Christina is the second daughter of Marie-Eleanore and Gustave-Adolphe.  She was preceded in life by another daughter who did not live long.  Between the two births, her mother had miscarried.  After these two losses, great hopes were placed on this future birth.

They wanted a boy, and the tiny being who came into the world was so hairy and dark that the father, at first, thought that it was.  A servant presented the child’s sex to the King, to show him his mistake.  It was a girl.

As time passed, her features became more pronounced and her voice and appearance became more and more masculine.  It had to be admitted that the astrologists who had predicted to the King that he would have a son, had been only half-mistaken.  Her mother never recovered from this disappointment.

Gustave-Adolphe, on the other hand, became very attached to this daughter, who gave all the signs of having a precocious intelligence, which seemed as if it would also be much higher than normal.  He took her with him to the camps, and had the military exercises performed in front of her.  She accompanied him when he went hunting, and dressed in male clothes on these occasions.

When she was only four years old, Gustave-Adolphe, before leaving for what would later be known as the Thirty-Year War, carried his daughter in his arms to the Senate to have her recognized, from that moment, as the future Queen of Sweden.  It is easy to see how different her life might have been if the King had not been killed as soon as he was.

She is scarcely six years old when she loses her father and is left with a mother who, formerly indifferent toward her, will then love her to the point of suffocation.  She is mentally shaken from an early age.

On top of that, the education which she receives from her father contributes to the development of her fiery temperament and her aversion for women.  In fact, she was not taught to be a princess;  she was taught to be a prince.  Christina, herself, tells us how she was raised:

“The King gave the order to everyone [her governors, the five officers of the Crown whom her father had assigned to her as tutors] to give me an entirely virile education and to teach me all that a young prince should know to be worthy of reigning…  In this, my inclinations seconded his designs marvellously well, for I had an aversion and an invincible antipathy for all that women do and say.  I found their clothes, accessories and manners unbearable.  I never wore a headdress or a mask, I took no care of my skin, my waistline, nor the rest of my body, and, except for cleanliness and honesty, I disdained all the trappings of my sex.  I was unable to suffer long clothes, I wanted to wear only short skirts, particularly in the country.  As well as that, I had such lack of ability for all their handiwork, that it was impossible to teach me any of it.  On the other hand, I learned with marvellous facility all the languages and all the exercises that anyone wanted to teach me.”

Her passion for study borders on frenzy.  She says that she consecrates twelve hours a day to work.  Taking exaggeration into account, it can still be said that she gives herself up to it with such enthusiasm, that she sometimes forgets to eat and drink.  It is true that she doesn’t eat properly and endures frequent digestive problems.  These dietary digressions and an unhealthy life-style will catch up with her later.

Philology, History and Theology are the basis of all education at that time.  However, Christina also studies, one after the other or simultaneously, Latin and Greek, French and Spanish, German and Italian.  The historians of Antiquity and the classic authors fill her with admiration.  Extremely intelligent, she learns quickly and is passionate about different domains.  However, this enthusiasm causes her to suffer from a certain amount of overwork.

Early on, she is accustomed, in particular by her father, to be conscious of her greatness, of her rank and of her power, and she is given the habit of speaking of her victories, of her armies and of her people.  From her majority, she is persuaded that she is the absolute arbiter, not only of her kingdom, but of the whole of Europe, whose destinies depend entirely on her wishes.

The words “my greatness”, “my glory”, are constantly pronounced or written by her.  In her old age, when she talks about her life, she will recognize only one person above herself, God, to whom she dedicates her memoires, as being the only judge worthy of such an honour.

This deep consciousness of her power and of her functions result in her wanting to be kept up-to-date on everything and, if the explanations she demands take too long to arrive, there are tantrums and tears.

Third part tomorow.

“It has been said that she is not part of conscious, reasonable humanity.  Her deviated body houses a twisted soul, undiscerning of good and evil…  Christina, who was almost a genius, was a moral monster.”  This is the rather unflattering portrait of Queen Christina of Sweden, painted at the end of the XIXth Century.

Throughout History, there have always been characters who inevitably draw the attention of psychologists.  The daughter of Gustave-Adolphe, the “Hero of the North”, as Schiller calls him, has been the object of avid curiosity over many years.  This is because she offers a unique blend of the most brilliant intelligence, coupled with strangeness and extravagance, which have given rise to doubt about her mental balance.

Her literary and scientific knowledge, her love of literature and philosophy, the scholars with whom she surrounded herself, made her an eminently learned person.  However, this woman swings between gentle calm and moments of great effervescence when her mood becomes very black and she displays inexplicable violence.

Christina’s character puzzled psychiatrists at the end of the XIXth Century because of its complexity which, at first glance, seems to defy all of the definitions, all of the schemas of contemporary psychological analysis.  Can we find a cause, or at least an explanation, for her wild comportment, among her ancestors?

We have already said that her father was Gustave-Adolphe, the hero of Lutzen, “a vast and powerful genius, with pronounced aesthetic tendencies, having a taste for action and domination, to a high degree.”  He is considered one of the greatest captains of his time.  A haughty spirit, but not arrogant, proud and generous toward his enemies, just and severe toward his allies, his instinctive piety gives a tint of religious exaltation to his courage.  This often makes him think that his cause is the same as that of Heaven and pushes him to see himself as an instrument of divine vengeance.

No sign of instability is visible in his character and no act of turpitude or cold cruelty is to be seen in his life.  Christina can therefore have only inherited from her father, that slightly mystic exaltation, that love of splendour, as well as a high opinion of herself and of her responsibilities.

Gustave-Adolphe, in virtue of court usage, which never lets the heart inspire any decision, has to take a wife from one of the reigning families.  Marie-Eleanore, daughter of the Elector of Brandebourg, John Sigismond, will be chosen.  Beautiful, but not stunning, whimsical and vain, she has a higher than average intelligence, and practically no willpower.  It has been said of her that she was only capable of inspiring her husband with a love which never rose above the sexual level.  She shared his bed without really sharing his life.

After the death of Gustave-Adolphe, she shows, according to Christina, “such excessive signs of love and pain, that they must be pardoned rather than justified”.  The illustrious warrior had been mortally wounded at the Battle of Lutzen, in Saxony.  Marie-Eleanore wants to send the crowns of the Kings and of the Kingdom to Germany, to be put on his coffin, so as to increase the brilliance of his funeral.

So far, nothing abnormal.  However, when the procession enters Stockholm, Marie-Eleanore demands that the body be placed somewhere in the church, so that she can visit it any time she feels like it.  She keeps the dead king’s heart close to her.  It is locked up in a gold box suspended on the bed, which she visits constantly, lamenting loudly.  It is only after having resisted for a long time, that she finally gives in to the Senate and the Clergy who beg her, for her own good, to allow them to lock the box up inside the coffin.

Immediately afterwards, she creates an Order, which she distributes to her family members and to the first ladies of the court.  On one side of this cord-like medal, a coffin is engraved with the letters G.A.R.S. (Gustave-Adolphe, Roi de Suede [King of Sweden]).  Around it, is the inscription:  Post mortem triumpho.  Morte mea vici.  Multis despectus, Magnalia feci.  (“I triumph after death.  I have vanquished by my death.  Despised by many, I have [however] done great things.”)  On the back is written, in Swedish, what can be translated as:  “I showed by my death the constance of my heart.  You other Heroes, all of you, venge it unreservedly on my enemies.”

Marie-Eleanore’s daughter, whom she couldn’t stand until then, suddenly becomes the object of passionate tenderness because she physically resembles her father.  So, to share her pain with her child, she locks her up with her in the apartment draped in black, where she mourns the dead king.  She also has black draperies placed over the windows, and the room is plunged into complete darkness.  In this funereal decor, mother and daughter lament, in front of their entourage, including the dwarves and buffoons usually called upon for a different role.

For three years, Christina has to bear this nightmare, and it is easy to guess the influence that such an atmosphere must have had on an already nervous temperament.  At last, it is decided to send this weeping queen to some faraway castle, and “this old, cumbersome, nuisance of a doll” is never heard of again, until her death.

Second part tomorow.

Not a great deal is known about the childhood of Henri IV’s other children.

During the illness of one of his daughters, Christine or Chretienne, doctors had been called from Paris.  They were unable to agree on the nature of her illness or on the treatment to prescribe and were sent away.

Marie de Medicis was displeased that Chretienne was so often on horseback.  She felt that, as her daughter was so young, this exercise could spoil her figure.

More delicate and frailer than Chretienne and Elisabeth (who married the future Philippe IV of Spain) Henriette was, according to Malherbe, “one of the kindest princesses in the world”.  Louis XIII cherished her even more because she was weaker, and he advised Mme de Montglat to watch over her as she would over himself.

Louis only had a marked aversion for his illegitimate brothers and sisters.  He was still a very young child when he answered his governess, who was rebuking him for having mistreated Mr de Vendome, one of the royal bastards:  “Oh well!  But he isn’t one of Mummy’s sons!”.

Later on, he never forgot that his illegitimate brothers had the same father as himself, and that, because of this, he owed them support and assistance.  He did not abandon any of his father’s children.

He was even on friendly terms with one of them.  She was a nun at Fontevrault and coadjudicator of the monastery.  Her name was Jeanne-Baptiste de Bourbon, daughter of Charlotte des Essarts, Countess of Romorantin.

Louis took care of her health.  If an epidemic was declared at Fontevrault, he would advise her to leave that convent for somewhere healthier.

However, he established distinctions.  If he showed preferences for some of the bastards, he also knew how to keep them at a respectful distance, and never permitted them to stray from their rank.

In these circumstances, he showed, as he did in many others, that he had a strong will, and that he was, and intended to remain, the King.

As the second Duke of Orleans was born on a 25 April, there was some discussion about whether or not to name him Louis, after Saint Louis, who was also born on 25 April.  Henri IV wanted him named Gaston, in memory of the valorous prince of the House of Foix.  Jean-Baptiste was added to please the Queen, who believed that this would put her third son under the protection of the saint of Florence, her home.

The Queen had also voiced the wish that he receive the title of Prince of Navarre.  But as this title could designate him as presumptive heir to the kingdom of Navarre, and permit someday certain pretensions unfavorable to the State, another title was chosen.

He became the Duke of Anjou, in memory of the famous House whose princes had been Kings of Jerusalem and of Sicily.  It was only on his marriage to Mlle de Bourbon that Gaston exchanged his title of Duke of Anjou for that of Duke of Orleans because the duchy of Orleans was given to him on this occasion.

Marie de Medicis had immediately shown a preference for this son.  She worries about finding a good nurse for this pampered child, insists on finding out if her milk is good, and if she has enough of it, if she likes wine, the quality and condition of her parents, and if there is anything which can be said against her.  She tells those charged with this mission, “if she is as she should be, dress her immediately, so that she is tidy and clean and ready when I send for her”.

The child grows, and like his brothers and sisters, is subject to the diseases of childhood.  Like Louis XIII, he catches smallpox, and his mother shows her anxiety.  She writes to Mme de Montglat:  “Doubtless this illness must follow its course and I have hope that the child will soon be cured”.  She tells her to bring “all the care and assistance which can be brought” to this end.

The patient is installed at Saint-Germain, in the King’s own bedroom.  The windows are opened “so as to ventilate it”, and a “good fire” is lit, on which is put ” juniper wood, so that the room remains without the slighest whiff of bad air”.

When the little prince is completely cured, the Queen is not opposed to him being shown to the people of Paris, so that it sees him “healthy and strong”, but “he mustn’t stop anywhere, because of the bad air and the illnesses which are there”.

So, he was taken out twice in Paris, but the second time, he started a temperature on his way back in the evening.  It was for this reason that he was left at the Louvre.

The Queen then came from Fontainebleau to see the Duke of Anjou, whom she found less ill than she had feared.  However, he refused to take the medicines presented to him.

The Queen wanted him to take an enema in her presence.  This was a drama.

To bring the child around to it, his mother told him that she had come to Paris to take him back with her to Fontainebleau, and that he needed to be strong to undertake the trip.  There was nothing better to contribute to this than his taking “a little broth”.  He agreed to take it.

“The Queen then told him that he had to take it from behind, and that , if he took it, she would give him a little silver pendant, which she showed him.  He immediately recognized what the Queen meant and said to her:  “I well see what it is, your broth to be taken from behind.  It’s an enema in disguise.  I don’t want it.  I don’t care about Fontainebleau or pendants.””

Surprised by this resistance, Marie de Medicis threatened him with the whip.  “These threats had no effect, force was necessary.  She therefore had him held down by three or four people, rendering him immobile.  Seeing the position he was in, he decided to accept what she wanted.”

After that, he was given “a little syrup”, and soon afterwards, he was found “running and playing, in the best mood that anyone could wish”.

Later, he had other indispositions.  There were worms and stones, “three grains like pin-heads, joined together, not smooth, but rough”.

He had adenoid growths, like his brother Louis XIII.  His mouth was constantly open, he had a dazed expression, with his lower lip hanging down.

He also had facial tics, which showed him to be “in a perpetual state of anxiety”.

Seventh and last part tomorrow.

The Dauphin didn’t like any lack of respect for his person.  His governess having accidentally turned her back to him, he says to her, in a very authoritive tone:  “You must not turn your arse to Monsieur Dauphin.”

Heroard also tells us of a dispute between Henri IV and his son.

“The King says to him:  “Take off your hat.”  He has trouble removing it.  The King takes it off for him, and he gets angry about it.  Then the King removes his drum and drumsticks, which is even worse.  “My hat!  My drum!  My drumsticks!”  The King, to upset him even more, puts the hat on his head.  “I want my hat!”  The King hits his head with it, and he is really angry and the King against him.  The King takes him by his wrists and lifts him in the air like stretching his little arms on a cross.  “Hey!  You are hurting me!  Hey!  My drum!  My hat!”  The Queen gives him back his hat, then his drumsticks.  It was a little tragedy.  He is taken away by Mme de Montglat, he is dying of anger.  Carried to the bedroom of Mlle Nurse, where he cries for a long time without being able to calm down, he doesn’t want to be kissed or hugged by Mme de Montglat, doesn’t say sorry to her, except when he feels his clothes being pulled up;  in the end, whipped, not punished… ”

Other passages from Heroard lead us to believe that when the Dauphin is whipped, it is on top of his dress.  When he is punished, it is naked.  It is more often the latter method which is employed by the King.  Henri IV was convinced that it was the best method of education, as is shown in the following letter, which he sent to Mme de Montglat, on 14 November 1607:

“I complain of you because you haven’t written that you have whipped my son;  for I want and command you to whip him every time that he is obstinate or does something wrong;  knowing myself that there is nothing in this world which will profit him more than that;  because I recognize by experience that it has been good for me;  for, at his age, I was often whipped.  That is why I want you to do it and that you make him understand.”

But people have different temperaments, and what might have been successful for the father, could harm the child.

The King didn’t hold back either, if we believe this exclamation from the Dauphin, one day that he had received a good hiding:  “Mamanga!  Papa has broken my thigh!  Put some ointment on me!”  You can’t always believe him, because he often pretended to feel great suffering in order to obtain a pardon.

It is astonishing, however, that an excessively sensitive child was submitted to these multiple beatings.  His sensitivity was sometimes displayed in attacks of a clearly morbid character.

His irritablity was even stronger because he hadn’t had a bowel movement for a long time.  His constipation could therefore be responsible for this state of excessive sensitivity which didn’t last very long.  One of the most conscientious historians writing about the childhood of Louis XIII shares this opinion.  Mr Louis Batiffol writes:

“With children, the following phenomena are produced:  at any given moment, the mood becomes dark, irritable, nervous;  they suffer, they are listless for several days, whitefaced.  Gradually, the abdominal pains become sharp, and the irritability grows extremely.  Then, suddenly, a violent emptying is produced, and the patient is cured.”

His entourage never suspects, of course, that these fits of anger could have a pathological cause.

Sometimes , the child was so enraged, that he fell into fainting fits.  The Queen understood that more gentleness was needed.  She wrote to the governess “that the whip be given with circumspection so that the anger which could take hold of him, does not engender any illness”.

Believing, rightly or wrongly, that the beatings presented more risks in the hot season, she recommended that everything be done before coming to the extremity of the whip.  The Dauphin benefited from this belief, but only for a short time.

He had just been proclaimed King when he was again birched.  His governor having reluctantly whipped him by formal order of his mother, the regent, the young sovereign entered the room where she was.  Obeying etiquette, Marie de Medicis rose and made a beautiful curstey to her son.  This drew the remark from Louis XIII:  “I would rather have fewer curtsies made to me and not be whipped!”  Those present smiled.  The Queen, although uncomfortable, did the same.

Richelieu reports that Henri IV once said to the Queen:  “I can assure you of one thing, that, knowing your temperament the way that I do and forseeing what his [the Dauphin’s] will be, you all of one piece, not to say stubborn, you will absolutely have some horn-locking with each other.”

Fifth part tomorrow.

The Dauphin displayed great stubborness and obstination at a very early age.  This caused him to be whipped very often.

He was not quite two years old when he was birched for the first time.  After that, he was frequently whipped.

One example, among many, of his disobedience, happened on the day that Mme de Montglat had a proclamation made by Thomas le Suisse, to the sound of a horn.  In it, “all persons, of whatever quality, condition or nation, are called upon to no longer relieve themselves in the castle enclosure except in the places destined for this act.  A fine of one quarter of an ecu is applicable, one half going to the poor and the other to the denouncer of the transgressors;  or, if unable to pay it, to remain in prison on bread and water for the space of twenty-four hours.  There is at this time [August 1606] the plague in Paris and other places surrounding it.  After supper, Mlle d’Agre surprises the Dauphin urinating against the wall of the underground room where he was.  “Ha!  Monsieur,”  she says.  “I’ve caught you!  You will pay one quarter of an ecu.”  He is surprised, blushes, doesn’t know what to say, recognizing having transgressed.”

In Heroard’s diary, there are often notes such as:  “Obstinate, whipped.”  The King leaves his son;  he screams, becomes angry:  whipped!  Another time, he is put into such a bad mood, through being tormented constantly, that “he wants to hit everyone, screaming uncontrollably.”  Once again, he receives the birch.

The King, himself, whips him several times “with his royal hand”.  It must be recognized that punishment was sometimes deserved, like when the child had crushed the head of a live sparrow;  or in another circumstance, when he had a musket fired at a gentleman he didn’t like.  Luckily, the arm was only charged with powder.

Mme de Montglat, “Mamenga” as he calls her to abbreviate, is usually given the task of punishing him.  She perhaps does not always apply suitable moderation and tact to it.  The child venges himself “by giving her two big scratches on her cheek”, or by taking the birches from her hands and beating her in return.

You have to be his nurse to put up with his indiscretions and the impertinence of his answers.  Having asked him if he wanted to suckle, and having presented her breast to him, he turns his back on her, and she hears him say coldly:  “Suckle my arse!… ”

Mme de Montglat whipped him time and again.  On top of that, she frightened him by threatening him with invisible bogie men.  One day, she even had a handful of birches descended down the chimney, attached to a string, telling the child that it had been brought by an angel.

Another day, the nurse having asked him what he had eaten for supper, “he replies smilingly, as if proud of it:  “Shit!””  We must add, in defence of the child, that this nurse used language, when talking to him, which appears strange to us today.  “Sir”, she would say.  “Never let anyone touch your breasts or your little knob, it will be cut off.”

The governess did not use much more decency in her language when she spoke to the child, who was visibly shocked by it.  One small example is the following piece of dialogue.

Mme de Montglat says to him:  “I am going to put on my shoes:  if you haven’t combed your hair by the time I return, you will be whipped.”  She comes back, the Dauphin has not combed his hair.  She then says to him:  “I am going to piss, if you haven’t combed your hair and fixed it properly by the time I come back, you will have the whip.”  He mumbles to himself:  “Ha!  She is a naughty girl!  She says in front of everyone that she is going to piss;  that is not very honest!  Fi!”  The people present were, apart from the doctor who reported the anecdote, Mme de Montglat’s tailor and one of her lackeys.

Even the doctor said this strange thing to him:  “Sir, you no longer have your little knob.”  He uncovers himself, has a candle brought and approaching the light, says:  “That’s it, isn’t it?”

Mr le Grand says to the nurse, whose husband had come the previous day:  “You feasted yesterday, Madame Nurse.”  She replies:  “On a flageolet bean!”  Raw language seems to have been the rule.

Mr de la Court says to the Dauphin:  “Monsieur, haven’t you properly understood that Papa told you that he wants you to learn to wash your hands by yourself and to wipe your own arse!”


“Why didn’t you tell him to wipe it himself!”

The child answers very sensibly:  “If I had dared to do that, he would have had me whipped.”

The gentleman could have given the excuse that the King, himself, did not always watch his language.  He wrote to Sully that he had bought, at the Saint-Germain fair, “merchandise up to three thousand ecus”;  and added “because the merchants from whom I bought the said merchandise have hold of me by the arse and the pants, I am writing to you to tell you to immediately send the said sum.”

Fourth part tomorrow.

Smallpox is once more reported in Paris.  Henri IV writes, from Villers-Cotterets, to Mme de Montglat on 18 July 1603, advising her to no longer allow his children to receive visitors, and to isolate them from anyone who could infect them.

The governess understands the necessity for this isolation, and has no hesitation in carrying out orders when circumstances dictate it.  The King is quick to thank her, and approves her decision to separate his daughter de Verneuil from the Dauphin and his other children, when she comes down with the characteristic rash.

Mme de Verneuil is allowed “to see her daughter and to care for her”.  It is agreed that she should have “a room at the castle and that it should be convenient”, but the rest of the family is to be lodged at the new building, far from the contaminated child.

Henri IV worries that his daughter may “have a lot of smallpox on her face, and where does she have it, is she very ill?”.  He asks for as much information as possible.

As we have seen, Henri IV does not make any distinction between his legitmate children and his bastards.  One day, the King enquires as to whether or not his son Verneuil has been purged.  Another day, his son Orleans is “very ill with a violent attack of fever”, and he is worried.  Not for very long, for he goes on a deer hunt to distract him from his worries.

But where we see that he puts all “the little troop at Saint-Germain” on the same level, and that he has the same sollicitude for all of his children, is in a letter which he wrote to Sully, on 16 May 1608.

“My friend, I am not easy, having here all of my children ill.  My daughter de Verneuil has the measles, but it is going away with little fever, so I think that she will be cured within two or three days.  My son [the Dauphin] yesterday vomitted twice with a little fever and drowsiness with a sore throat which makes the doctors think that he might have caught the measles;  however, it let him rest last night.  My son d’Orleans still has continual fever, but one day stronger than another, and it seems that it is a double tertian fever.  You must believe that with all this I am uneasy… ”

Marie de Medicis shows herself to be a lot colder concerning the “flesh of her flesh”.  Richelieu reports, in his Memoires, that he had “heard from Mr de Bethune, that another time, she was so little moved by the extreme illness of the Duke of Orleans, that the late King [Henri IV], who was alive then, found it very strange.”

If she was away for a long time, the Queen received the news sent to her by Mme de Montglat, but did “not answer, sometimes [because] of the inconvenience of the places”.  Here is one of the letters sent by the governess to Marie de Medicis.

“Madame de Montglat to the Queen.

“Saint-Germain, 7 June 1602


“My Lord the Dauphin continues to be well thank God, there are just the scabs on his face which give him some discomfort because they are very itchy, he had none on his forehead where they have returned this last week, I fear that on the arrival of Your Majesties, he will have a mask, it is when he has the most that he feels the best, when he had fever, he didn’t have any more, I feel happy that some have come back since, believing that he will be better for it as thanks to God he has always been, this is what makes me believe that Your Majesties would better like to see him healthy and scabby than otherwise.  He is always very gay, and shows us every day new fruits of his garden by the increase in his knowledge, and new effects of his judgement and of his spirit which are admirable in a child of his age, I hope that Your Majesties will soon have this pleasure for which I pray God, and that they receive as much happiness from it as desires, Madame, Your very humble very obedient very faithful and very obliged subject and servant.


“From Saint-Germain-en-Laye,

7th June (1602).”

When the Queen answered, it was with simple notes “dry, laconic, pure form:  during the trip to Metz, which lasted one month, she sent only one short and insignificant letter.”

A contemporary of Louis XIII, goes as far as saying that, during the four years of her regency, she didn’t once embrace her son;  he learned of this “from an old courtier of that time, who permitted himself to tell him of it”.

It was not that the Queen completely neglected her children, she looked after them, but from afar.  If a plague erupted in Paris, the Queen immediately wrote to the governess, “to keep an eye open to see if this disease does not install itself at Saint-Germain”;  and if it did, to make sure that “no-one coming from outside lives in the town, nor anyone at all sees the children”.  As “for the children of the nurses and others”, they should go “to stay in Saint-Germain, elsewhere, or wherever they want”.

Another time, ” there are a lot of illnesses of smallpox, measles and contagion in Paris and in the towns and villages around Saint-Germain”.  All the royal line was hastily transported “to the new building”, on top of the hill.

The Louvre was considered unhealthy because of its moats, and when the Queen decides to have her little family brought to Paris, she settles it in a healthy suburb, surrounded by trees.  She rents for them the luxurious hotel of Mr de Luxembourg.  She will later build a magnificent residence on the same spot.

It would be unjust to say that Marie de Medicis was devoid of all maternal sollicitude, but she only accomplished her strict motherly duties.  For example, if one of her children had to be weaned, or the midwife advised her to delay the weaning of another, the Queen asked the advice of Heroard or the King’s First Doctors, Messrs du Laurens and de la Riviere.  The nurse of little Chretienne having no more milk, she decides to wean her, but “after the cold season, if this can be done without inconvenience”.

Like a number of mothers, she tended to believe that all of the indispositions suffered by her children were caused by teething.  “What my daughter is feeling,” she wrote to the governess.  “Is doubtless only the pain of her teeth, which are ready to pierce;  this will pass… ”  Even more calmly, she says that “it is not always possible to prevent illness when it has to come, principally in children the age of my daughter;  as much care as possible must be taken with the cure.”

She made no effort to win the affection of her children.  No effusions, not the slightest caress.  Stiff and distant, she froze them by her presence, and as if she wanted to push them farther away from her heart, she was not sparing in physical punishments.

Third part tomorrow.

Henri IV of France was an excellent father.  He adored all of his children, legitimate or illegitimate.  From 1593 to 1609, he had eight children from his official mistresses, and six from his wife.

All of them were grouped at Saint-Germain under the responsibility of their governess, Francoise de Longuejoue, the wife of Robert de Harlay, Baron of Montglat and the King’s First Maitre d’Hotel.  Mme de Montglat had been chosen as the Dauphin’s governess eight days before his birth.

L’Estoile mentions the Montglat couple, saying that the man was “violent and angry, and his wife even worse”.

Mme de Montglat, before being named governess to the Dauphin, had raised the children whom Henri IV had had with Gabrielle d’Estrees.  She remained their governess while taking up her new functions.

Henri IV entrusted her with all of his mistresses’ children, as they were born.  She ended up having as many as nine charges, from five different mothers.

Apart from the governess, the doctor played an active role.  The one chosen to look after Louis XIII’s health was Jean Heroard (which he pronounced Herouard).

He had been attached to the person of Kings Charles IX, Henri III and Henri IV, as ordinary doctor.  For over twenty-six years, he remained with Louis XIII, keeping a daily register of his slightest indispositions.  Thanks to this document, we are able to know the most intimate details of the life of the royal family.

Louis XIII’s first tooth was quite an event.  His apothecary, Mr Guerin, left immediately to carry the news to the King at Fontainebleau.

The King rarely visited his son.  The Queen, Marie de Medicis, ceremoniously kissed him at the side of his forehead, and became very red at the sight of him.  She appears to have been rather indifferent toward him.

Much more familiar, Henri allowed his beard to be pulled with both hands.  The child pulled so hard that he hurt him.  It was one of his ways of caressing, like pulling Mr le Grand’s moustache, or grabbing the cheek of his nurse’s chamber maid.

On 17 July 1602, “straps were put on his robe, to teach him to walk”.  On 22, “dressed in a new coat”, he was taken to the King, in the gardens, where he was walking after having taken the waters.  The Queen wants to take him,  but he cries so much that he has to be removed.

A detail, which shows the extreme moral liberty in which the royal child lived, is given by Heroard, who notes it, without appearing to be in the least surprised.  “Dressed at seven o’clock, he takes pleasure, and laughs out loud, when the rocking nurse plays with his little knob, using the tip of her finger.”

On 21 November, the Dauphin is transported to the new castle.  This change was imposed by the sanitary situation at Saint-Germain.

Since March, there had been a smallpox epidemic there, which had first of all attacked the children of Henri IV and Gabrielle, Alexandre Monsieur and Mlle de Vendome.  Later, the son of Mr de Frontenac caught it.  The royal child had to be removed from this contagious place.

On 27 January 1603, “the King gives him some wine to taste” for the first time.  A few days later, he is allowed to eat some duck, the “first meat that he has eaten”, then some capon.  “He found everything good.”

Charles Martin, the King’s painter, is called in to paint the Dauphin’s portrait.  He lives in Paris, on the Pont Notre-Dame, near Saint-Denis-de-la-Chartre.  The Dauphin is kept amused in his little chair so that he stays still during the sitting.

Second part tomorrow.

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