How Do You Talk To a King?


Louis XIV was of an average height, only one meter sixty-two centimeters, then those famous red hills and the wig would add him twenty-six centimeters; but, as we all know, it is not the beard which makes a philosopher. Voltaire wrote that one of the stuttering officers had once noticed that he didn’t tremble as much before the enemy as he did before his king. Saint-Simon told us how intimidating the king could be, to the point that intelligent people would say in his presence all sorts of stupidities.

“When is she due?” the king inquired of Duke Uzes about the latter’s pregnant wife. “Whenever you like, Sire,” answered the taken aback courtier.

When Racine had died, it was discovered that the play-write wanted to be buried among the Jansenists, whose religious teaching Louis XIV found heretical. “Ah! Sire,” exclaimed the other flatterer, “he would never do anything like that, had he still been alive.”

“You had to be used to the king, to be able talk to him,” explained Saint-Simon. Cardinal d’Estrees could certainly joke around with Louis the Great. By the age of sixty the king had all of his teeth pulled and was eating the types of meals they are serving in convalescent homes. While sucking on a straw, the king was talking to the cardinal about his problem. “Ah, Sire,” responded the ecclesiastic, “teeth! Nobody has any teeth anymore!”

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