Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/463

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Continent. The preparations of France had been such as amazed even those who estimated most highly her resources and the abilities of her rulers. Both her agriculture and her commerce were suffering. The vineyards of Burgundy, the interminable cornfields of the Beauce, had failed to yield their increase: the looms of Lyons were silent; and the merchant ships were rotting in the harbour of Marseilles. Yet the monarchy presented to its numerous enemies a front more haughty and more menacing than ever. Lewis had determined not to make any advance towards a reconciliation with the new government of England till the whole strength of his realm had been put forth in one more effort. A mighty effort in truth it was, but too exhausting to be repeated. He made an immense display of force at once on the Pyrenees and on the Alps, on the Rhine and on the Meuse, in the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean. That nothing might be wanting which could excite the martial ardour of a nation eminently highspirited, he instituted, a few days before he left his palace for the camp, a new military order of knighthood, and placed it under the protection of his own sainted ancestor and patron. The new cross of St. Lewis shone on the breasts of the gentlemen who had been conspicuous in the trenches before Mons and Namur, and on the fields of Fleurus and Steinkirk; and the sight raised a generous emulation among those who had still to win an honourable fame in arms.[1]

In the week in which this celebrated order began to exist Middleton visited Versailles. A letter in which he gave his friends in England an account of his visit has come down to us.[2] He was presented to Lewis, was most kindly received, and was overpowered by gratitude and admiration. Of all the wonders of the Court,—so Middleton wrote,—its master was the greatest. The splendour of the great King's personal merit threw even the splendour of his fortunes into the shade. The language which His Most Christian Majesty held about English politics was, on the whole, highly satisfactory. Yet in one

  1. The edict of creation was registered by the Parliament of Paris on the 10th of April, 1693.
  2. The letter is dated the 19th of April 1693. It is among the Nairne MSS., and was printed by Macpherson.