The Life and Death of Louis XVI

By Saul K. Padover | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
"Le roi est mort, Vive . . . !"

YET FORTY DAYS and Nineveh shall be overthrown." Such, in the spring of 1774, was the text of a sermon with which Bishop Jean Baptiste de Beauvais broke the clerical conspiracy of silence in regard to God's anointed, the Most Christian King of France. The bold bishop electrified his flock by pointing a trembling finger of accusation at the court of Versailles.

"Sire, my duty as a minister of the God of Truth commands me to tell you that your people are wretched, that you are the cause of it, and that you are kept in ignorance of it."

Yet forty days and the words of Jonah were fulfilled.

The stroke came like lightning. Dallying in the Trianon, the sixty-three year old Louis XV, who was fat and tormented by dyspepsia but who refused to heed his physicians' advice to give up the rosy-skinned Du Barry, suddenly collapsed. Upon being revived, he complained of headache and pain in the kidneys. He was carried across the park to the château, where a medical council, after weighty conferences, decided that His Majesty was suffering from "catarrhal fever" and needed to be bled. The doctors quickly reduced the patient's resistance by twice taking from his slowed-down arteries four big vials of blood.

Within two days skin-deep purplish pustules broke out over the patient's body, and the council of bewigged medicine men

-43-

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