The deathbed advice Louis XIV gave his great-grandson and heir

December 3, 2012

Charlotte de La Motte Houdancourt, Duchess of Ventadour and Governess of Louis XV of France. Painting by Pierre Mignard

Madame the Ventadour set [the Dauphin] in an armchair. For a while, [Louis XIV] looked intently at this frail successor, and then, with tears in his eyes, he said: “Dear child, you are going to be the greatest King in the world; never forget the duty you owe to God. Do not follow my example in the matter of wars; endeavor, at all times, to remain at peace with your neighbors, to alleviate, so far as in you lies, the burdens of your people, a thing which, alas, I was not able to do, by reason of necessities of State.

Portrait of Louis XV of France, painted by Alexis Simon Belle

Always follow good advice, and never forget what you owe to Madame de Ventadour.” Then, turning to the governess, he said, “To you, Madame, I have to render thanks for your care in bringing up this child, and for the tender affection you bestow upon him…. Madame, hold the dear child close to me, so that I may kiss him for the last time, since it pleases God to ordain that the consolation of bringing him up to a riper age shall not be mine.”

The Young Louis XV at Versailles, Painted by Félix Henri Emmanuel

Then, raising his eyes to heaven and clasping his hands in prayer, he said, “Lord, I offer Thee this child. Give him grace to serve Thee and honor Thee as a truly Christian king, and grant that he may cause Thee to be adored and honored of all the people of this realm.” The Dauphin began to sob. He had to be taken from the room.

Pierre Gaxotte, Louis the Fifteenth and His Times, trans. J. Lewis May (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1934), p. 13.

 

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 235

 

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