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young duke of Guise professed, and felt for him, the warmest degree of affectionate devotion. We know that he expressly ordered Vetry to receive into the company of body-guards, the soldier who had wounded him with a ball at the combat of Aumale. Henry pointed him out to Marshal D'Estrees, as the man mounted guard at the door of his coach. In the single instance of Biron, he remained inexorable; but it ought not to be forgotten that Biron was at once guilty and obdurate. Henry neither put him to death from personal resentment, nor from mere considerations of state policy. The last necessity alone induced him to refuse pardon to a man who aspired to independence, and whose projects were levelled at the succession in the house of Bourbon, as well as at the safety of the monarchy of France itself. Nothing can more strongly attest the fact, nor prove the repugnance with which he abandoned Biron to the sword of the law, than his answer to the noblemen who sued for the forgiveness of that criminal.
His affection towards the inferior classes of his subjects, and in particular towards the peasants, whom he cherished and protected, as the most necessary, but the most oppressed and injured description of his people, drew upon him the benedictions of the age in which he lived, and endeared him to posterity. He was neither ignorant, nor did he affect to be so, that he merited universal esteem. The sentiment involuntarily burst from him on various occasions. Only a few hours before he was assassinated, upon the morning of that day, as if by a secret warning of his destiny, he said to the duke of Guise and to Bassompierre—" You do not know me now, but I shall die one of these days; and when you have lost me you will know my worth, and the difference between me and other men." "The kings, my predecessors," said he on another occasion, addressing himself to the deputies of the clergy, " have given you splendid words; but I, with my gray jacket, will give you effects. I am all gray without, but all gold within."
Educated in the field, and accustomed to fatigue, he delighted little in pursuits of literature; but he was neither unacquainted with polite letters, nor deficient in extending a liberal protection to men of genius. Du Perron, Matthieu, Scaliger, Casaubon, Sponde, and a number of other eminent writers, received pensions from the treasury, or were raised by Henry to eminent honours and dignities. The love of glory, and the desire of honourable fame, as distinct from, and as opposed to that passion which we commonly denominate ambition, was the predominant feature of his character. Louis XIV. was perpetually and systematically occupied, during his long reign, in acts of wanton and unjust rapacity, in order to extend the frontiers of his dominions. Henry, on the contrary, proposed to become the arbiter of Europe, by his magnanimous moderation. We see in the memoirs of Sully, that he did not reserve a foot of land to augment France, from the conquests to be made by the vast confederacy, which he was on the point of putting into action when assassinated. Artois and French Flanders were to have been distributed in fiefs to various individuals. Alsace, and the county of Burgundy, were destined for the Switzers, Roussillon and Cerdagne were left to Spain. All these provinces were gained by Richelieu or by Louis XIV. It is true that he projected to acquire Lorraine and the duchy of Savoy; but the former was in virtue of the marriage of the dauphin to a princess of Lorraine: the latter was only contingent, and in the event of Charles Emanuel remaining peaceable possessor of the Milanese.
If we would behold the portrait of Henry, drawn by himself, we may see it in one of his letters to the same minister Sully. It cannot be perused without emotions of pleasure. "Whenever," writes he, "the occasion shall present itself for executing those glorious designs which you well know that I have long projected, you shall find that I will rather quit my mistresses, hounds, gaming, buildings, banquets, and every other recreation, than let pass the opportunity of acquiring honour; the principal sources of which, after my duty to God, my wife, and my children, are to attain the reputation of a prince tenacious of his faith and word; and to perform actions at the end of my days, which shall immortalize and crown them with glory and honour." It is, nevertheless, an incontrovertible, though a melancholy fact, that he was neither known nor beloved during his life as he deserved. The intimate acquaintance which his contemporaries had with his infirmities and defects, together with the implacable animosity of the inveterate adherents of Spain and of the "league," tra
duced his character, and aggravated all his faults. But time, the test of truth, has fully unveiled him to mankind; and, after the lapse of near two centuries, posterity has justly assigned him one of the highest places among those, whom Providence in its bounty sometimes raises up for the felicity and ornament of the human race.
Thus fell Louis XVI. in the thirty-ninth year of his age, and nineteenth of his reign; and with him fell the monarchy of France, which, under three dynasties, had existed nearly fifteen centuries. So strong, at the time of his accession, was the general sentiment in his favour, that he was greeted with the title of Louis the Desired. Nor, though afterwards branded with every term of obloquy, did he ever merit the hatred of his subjects. In some measure he resembled our Charles I.; to whose history he paid great attention. A comparison, however, of their conduct, when involved in difficulties, is highly favourable to the English sovereign. Charles maintained, with vigour and by arms, a contest of some years duration; and, when at length overcome, still preserving his native dignity, uniformly refused to acknowledge the authority of that usurped jurisdiction by which he was arraigned. He lost his crown and life; but he preserved inviolate the reputation of active courage and unconquerable spirit. Louis may, perhaps with more
propriety, be compared to the sixth Henry. With greater abilities than Henry, he had, in some parts of his character and situation, a strong similarity to that monarch. Both were pious; both, diffident of themselves, and therefore easily swayed by others, espoused princesses of elevated minds; both were driven from their thrones by rebellion; and both perished by an untimely death.
The understanding of Louis was much above mediocrity; he had acquired a vast fund of knowledge by reading; his memory was remarkably tenacious; and his judgment, in arranging, combining, and applying what his memory had retained, was often displayed in a manner that was highly creditable to him. On the relative state and interest of France and the European powers, his information was by no means inconsiderable. History and geography were two of his favourite studies. To the former he paid much attention; and such was his proficiency in the latter, that the detailed instructions to the ill fated navigator, Perouse, were drawn up by his own hand: he was, indeed, supposed to be the best geographer in his kingdom. With some of the mechanical arts he was also well acquainted, and even occasionally practised them.
In his moral conduct he was unimpeachable. Just, beneficent; a good husband, a good father, and a lover of his people, he would, had he lived in an age less turbulent, when the higher talents are not required in a ruler, have done honour to a throne. But he did not satisfy himself with mere morality, which, when unsupported