The Life and Death of Louis XVI

By Saul K. Padover | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
"Only Turgot and I love the people"

THE BREAD RIOTS having failed to dislodge the comptroller-general because of the king's loyal support, Turgot's enemies joined forces and lined up behind the queen, who was cynically selected as a battering-ram. King and minister soon faced a formidable coalition, composed of the courtiers who feared a slash in expenditures, high functionaries who saw themselves threatened in their extralegal incomes, tax- farmers who profited from a corrupt administration, and financiers who disliked the radical minister's budgetary reforms. Such a combination of powers had more than once broken a powerful minister.

The first sharp clash in which Marie Antoinette figured prominently--she had hitherto remained in the background, as Mercy advised her, on account of Louis' pronounced hostility to female meddling--was over the appointment of a minister of the royal household (practically a minister of the interior). Since this official was in charge of the king's purse, Turgot considered it essential for his reforms to appoint one whom he could absolutely trust, and he proposed Councillor Lamoignon de Malesherbes, president of the Cour des Aides attached to the Parlement of Paris. Louis did not know Malesherbes, but he had heard of him as a man of unimpeachable integrity, and he eagerly offered him the office. To the king's surprise, the philosophical councilor smilingly refused a post

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