THE ROYAL HOUSE OF BOURBON

 

DOC 16. THE DUKE OF SAINT-SIMON'S COMMENTARY ON THE REGISTRATION OF THE RENUNCIATIONS

"I have already said all that is needful on this matter, and the subject is dealt with fully in the documents. It would therefore be redundant to explain at length the uselessness of a French prince of an elder line renouncing his rightful claim to a succession, unless France also consented by a new law, laid down with all the formalities required to give it permanence. Also needed was the renunciation by France of the claim of her own two royal princes and their descendants, and of the two princes of the blood next in line, in order of seniority. These royal princes, subjects of the most autocratic and jealous monarch that ever reigned (the grandfather of one, uncle and father-in-law of the other, and grandfather after a certain fashion of the two princes of the blood), were forced, together with the peers of France, to witness the registration of this act by the Parlement, without publication of its contents, without previous debate, and without their opinions being asked-not that any of them would have dared to speak, except in approval. Thus was executed the ratification of that solemn act of the Parlement, designed to establish a new order of succession against all precedent in France. Its purpose was to give Europe the security not attained after the formal renunciations at the time of the Peace of the Pyrenees, or by the marriage contracts of Louis XIII and XIV, all of which had duly been enregistered in the Parlement. The treaty itself, with the renunciations most explicitly stated, was signed and sealed, on the frontier, by the first ministers of France and Spain, and the sovereigns of both countries in the presence of their courts solemnly swore to abide by it. The radical difference between what then took place and the events which I am about to describe will be only too obvious.

"The blind worship of his absolute authority, of which the King was so inordinately jealous that it had become the chief concern of his life, was unshaken by the novelty of such an act, its supreme importance within and without his kingdom, its effect upon his line and his immediate family, or even by the fact that the idol to whom he sacrificed all would soon desert him, leaving him as naked before his maker as the meanest of his subjects. The most he would do to solemnize the enregistration was to provide for the presence of the peers, and even then his vanity was so overwhelming that he made only a general announcement desiring their attendance at the Parlement to witness the ratifying of the Acts of Renunciation.

"This I learned only four days before the event. 1 spoke to several of my fellow peers, and then informed M. le Duc d'Orléans that, if the King relied only on that one announcement, he could not reckon on the attendance of the peers, for unless they received his summons in the proper manner through the grand master of ceremonies they would not be present. That firm statement, which would have been followed by the deed, as in the case of Monseigneur's funeral, had its effect. M. le Duc d'Orléans and M. le Duc de Berry spoke seriously to the King, and at the last moment Dreux called personally on all the peers who were lodged in the Château de Versailles, and left for those who were not at home a note to the effect that M. le Duc de So-and-So was thereby informed that the King proposed to treat matters of high importance at the Parlement, on a certain day, and desired his attendance. The notes were signed 'Dreux', and were dated. To the peers living in Paris, he merely sent cards, but was obliged to go himself to call on the princes of the blood and the legitimised princes, and they were thus not sent any note. When at last the English realised that no more could be extorted from us, and being, as I have said, in great haste to conclude a peace, they decided to be content with what they had gained."

[Historical memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon, A Shortened Version, Volume II 1710-1715, edited and translated by Lucy Norton, London, 1968, pp. 289-290]

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