CHAPTER V. A DAY WITH THE SUN KING
Louis the Magnificent, we must agree with that profuse and sharp-witted chronicler, the Duke of Saint-Simon, was made for a brilliant Court. "In the midst of other men, his figure, his courage, his grace, his beauty, his grand mien, even the tone of his voice and the majestic and natural charm of all his person, distinguished him till his death as the King Bee, and showed that if he had been born only a simple private gentleman, he would have excelled in fetes, pleasures and gallantry. . . . He liked splendor, magnificence and profusion in everything. Nobody ever approached his magnificence."
With sumptuous detail the King's day progressed at Versailles, from the formal "rising" to the hour when, with equal pomp, the monarch went to bed. Before eight o'clock in the morning the waiting-room next the King's bedchamber was the gathering-place of princes, nobles and officers of the Court, each fresh from his own laving and be-wigging. While they passed the time in low converse, the formal ceremony of the King's awakening took place behind the gold and white doors of the royal sleeping-room. "The Chamber," one of the eleven offices in the service of the King, comprised four first gentlemen of the Chamber, twenty-four gentlemen of the Chamber, twenty-four pages of the Chamber, four first valets of the Chamber, sixteen ushers, thirty-two valets of the Chamber, two cloak-bearers, two gun-bearers, eight barbers, three watch-makers, one dentist, and many minor attendants - all under the direction of the Grand Chamberlain.
A few minutes before eight o'clock it was the duty of the chief valet de chambre to see that a fire was laid in the King's chamber (if the weather required one), that blinds were drawn, and candles snuffed. As the clock chimed the hour of eight, he approached the embroidered red velvet curtains of the royal bed with the announcement, "Sire, it is the hour."
When the curtains were drawn and the royal eyelids lifted upon a new day, the children of the King were admitted to make their morning obeisance. The chief physician and surgeon and the King's old nurse then entered to greet the waking monarch. While they performed certain offices allotted them, the Grand Chamberlain was summoned. The first valet de chambre took his place by the bed and, holding a silver basin beneath the King's hands, poured on them spirits of wine from a flagon. The Grand Chamberlain next presented the vase of Holy Water to the King, who accepted it and made the Sign of the Cross. Opportunity was given at this moment for the princes, or any one having the grande entree, to speak to the King, after which the Grand Chamberlain offered to His Majesty a prayer-book, and all present passed from the room except those privileged to stay for the brief religious service that followed.
Surrounded by princes, nobles and high officers attached to his person, the King chose his wig for the day, put on the slippers and dressing-gown presented by the appointed attendant, and stepped outside the massive balustrade that surrounded his bed. Now the doors opened to admit those that had the right to be present while the King donned his silk stockings and diamond-buckled garters and shoes - acts that he performed "with address and grace." On alternate days, when his night-cap had been removed, the nobles and courtiers were privileged to see the King shave himself, while a mirror, and, if the morning was dull, lighted candles were held before his face by the first valet de chambre. Occasionally His Majesty briefly addressed some one in the room. The assemblage was, by this time, augmented by the admission of secretaries and officers attached to the palace, whose position entitled them to the "first entree." When his wig was in place and the dressing of the royal person had proceeded at the hands of officers of the Wardrobe (there were, in all, sixty persons attached to this service), the King spoke the word that opened the ante-chamber doors to the cardinals, ambassadors and government officials that awaited the ceremony of the grand lever, or "grand rising," so-called in distinction to the more intimate petit lever. Altogether, no less than one hundred and fifty persons were present while the King went through the daily ceremony of the rising and the toilet.
When the Sovereign of France had breakfasted on a service of porcelain and gold, had permitted his sword and his jeweled orders to be fastened on, and, from proffered baskets of cravats and handkerchiefs, had made his choice; when he had prayed by his bedside with cardinals and clergy in attendance; had granted brief informal interviews, and had attended mass in the chapel of Versailles, it was his custom to ask for the Council. Thrice a week there was a council of State, and twice a week a finance council. Thus the mornings passed, with the exception of Thursday morning, when His Majesty gave "back-stair" audiences known to but a few, and Friday morning, which was spent with his confessor.