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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Louis XVIII.

  • [King of France, brother of Louis XVI.; born at Versailles, November, 1755; emigrated, 1791; ascended the throne on the fall of Napoleon, April, 1814; retired to Ghent on the return of the emperor from Elba, but was restored by the allied armies, July, 1815; sent an army to Spain, 1823; died September, 1824.]
  • Punctuality is the politeness of kings (L’exactitude est la politesse des rois).

  • The best known of the king’s sayings. Louis XIV. was also punctual; though Fournier doubts whether he uttered the implied reproof, when, on one occasion, his carriage did not appear at the appointed moment: “I almost waited” (J’ai failli attendre). “Impatience and vivacity of temper,” says this critic of royal mots, “hardly form part of the idea one forms of Louis XIV.” Larousse, however, finds it the expression of the hauteur of one of the proudest of monarchs.—Fleurs Historiques. Neither hauteur nor vindictiveness formed part of the character of Louis XVIII. When urged to give his support to a plan to assassinate the Emperor Napoleon, he answered, “In my family we are murdered, but we never commit murder;” and he remarked of the returned émigrés, who “had learned nothing and forgotten nothing,” “They are more royalist than royalty itself” (plus royalistes que le roi).
  • He said to his newly married nephew and niece, the Duc and Duchesse d’Angoulême, “Were my crown a crown of roses, how gladly would I give it to you: but it is a crown of thorns, and I keep it.”
  • When Marshal Blücher wished to destroy the Pont de Jena in Paris, the name of which recalled Prussia’s greatest disaster, the king dryly observed, “Better take the bridge with you, than throw it into the Seine.” Another answer, “I will have myself carried on to it, and we will blow up together” (Je m’y ferai porter, et nous sauterons ensemble), was the invention of the Count Beugnot, who wrote for Charles X.: “There is only one Frenchman more” (vide). The count claimed it in his “Memoirs,” 1866, 312, and says that “the king might have been at first a little frightened at the mot put into his mouth; but he soon accepted the renown it gave him, with a good grace. I have heard him complimented on this admirable evidence of courage, and he replied with perfect assurance.”
  • A king should die standing.

  • Another aphorism which the king probably did not utter,—an imitation of Vespasian’s, “An emperor ought to die standing” (Decet imperatorem stantem mori).—SUETONIUS: Life. The emperor attended to the despatch of business in his last illness, and even received ambassadors in bed; but at last, feeling his strength failing, he made an effort to rise, and, causing himself to be dressed, expired in the arms of his officers. So Louis XVIII. continued to show himself in public, although daily losing strength. On the anniversary of St. Louis, Aug. 25, 1824, when advised not to hold his usual reception, he replied, “A king of France dies, but ought never to be ill” (Un roi de France meurt, mais il ne doit pas être malade). Distrust “last words,” is Fournier’s advice, who says that the old king’s death was of the most silent character.
  • The French Ana, however, attribute to him a pun; for, when he saw by the faces of his attendants that there was no more hope, he said, alluding to his successor Charles, “Allons, finissonsen, Charle attend [charlatans!]. When Maria Theresa was asked, shortly before her death, to take a sleeping-potion, she replied, “I could sleep, but I must not: Death is too near; he must not steal upon me; these fifteen years [since her husband’s death] I have been waiting for him; I will meet him awake.”—CARLYLE: Frederick the Great, XXI. 8.