The Life and Death of Louis XVI

By Saul K. Padover | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
"The king barricades himself with honest men"

THE GREAT WORRY was, Who should guide him? The be- wildered boy stood alone on a pinnacle facing a whole nation, and he was frightened at the awful responsibility. He had never before had to make decisions or take action. Always there had been somebody mastering him--father, mother, brother, wife; but now he was king and absolute lord of the realm, and all the world expected him to rule and command. Yet he did not have the remotest idea of his specific functions, or any knowledge of finance and legislation, or any awareness of the complex problems that waited solution. He knew how to sign papers submitted by ministers and was of course conscious that his signature implied sanction and compelled obedience. But his distrust of all his grandfather's ministers and functionaries was too deep to allow them to remain in office.

At court there was no one in whom he had confidence. Yet it was essential that he find one man to whom he could entrust himself and the destinies of the state; such a man could serve as prime minister, as royal tutor, and even as a sort of parent-substitute. But where was the king to find such a mentor? He had virtually no contact with prominent men, and some of the persons recommended in his father's list--Maurepas, for example--had not been at court in Louis' lifetime.

Immensely worried, Louis consulted the one woman he

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