The Life and Death of Louis XVI

By Saul K. Padover | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
"Poor Berry, make a noise"

Louis AUGUSTUS, Duke of Berry, the future Louis XVI, was a sickly child despite his mother's Saxon vitality. None of his brothers, in fact, was vigorous, but Berry was so feeble that his parents did not expect him to live. Dr. Tronchin, a Swiss scientist, advised country air and a simple diet. In the country little Louis Augustus grew strong.

Louis, whom everybody called Berry, was the second of four brothers, but except in heaviness of body he resembled none of them and suffered accordingly from a sense of peculiarity. Burgundy, his older brother, was brilliant and pampered, Provence studious, and Artois, the youngest, spirited. Only Berry had no accomplishments. Even as a little boy he felt that every one pitied him for his dullness and mocked his heavy gait. He sought refuge in rough play and outdoor exercise, which strengthened his muscles but not his wits.

No one--not even the clever mother--paid special attention to the shy boy. No one made any effort to develop what good qualities he had or to give him self-confidence. His childhood world, especially his malicious brothers, considered him stupid, and he accepted the judgment of his fellows. It was the boy's misfortune that his mother had a greater knowledge of classic languages than of the mind of a child.

What intensified his conviction of inferiority was the brilliance of his older brother Burgundy, a dazzling sun that

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