Marly-Le-Roi

By Augustus J. C. Hare

[20]

The tram stops close to the Abreuvoir, a large artificial tank, surrounded by masonry for receiving the surplus water from the fountains in the palace gardens, of which it is now the only remnant. Ascending the avenue on the right, we shall find a road at the top which will lead us, to the left, through delightful woods to the site of the palace. Nothing remains but the walls supporting the wooded terrace.

It is difficult to realize the place as it was, for the quincunces of limes which stood between the pavilions on either side of the steep avenue leading to the royal residence, formerly dipt and kept close, are now huge trees, marking still the design of the grounds, but obscuring the views, and, by their great growth, making the main avenue very narrow. St. Simon exaggerates the extravagance of Louis XIV. at Marly, who spent there four and a half million francs between 1679 and 1690, and probably as much or more between 1690 and 1715, perhaps in all ten or twelve millions, which would represent fifty million francs at the present time. Nevertheless the expense of the amusements of Louis XIV. greatly exceeded the whole revenue of Henri IV., and those of the early years of Louis XIII.

From the central pavilion in which the flattery of Mansart placed him as the sun, Louis XIV. emerged every morning to visit the occupiers of the twelve smaller pavilions, Les Pavilions des Seigneurs, the constellations, his courtiers, who came out to meet him and swelled his train. These pavilions, arranged on each side of the gardens, stood in double avenues of clipt lime-trees looking upon the garden and its fountains, and leading up to the palace.

The device of the sun was carried out in the palace itself, where all the smaller apartments circled round the grand salon, the king and queen having apartments to the back, the dauphin and dauphine to the front, each apartment consisting of an anteroom, bedroom, and sitting-room, and each set being connected with one of the four square saloons, which opened upon the great octagonal hall, of which four faces were occupied by chimney- pieces and four by the doors of the smaller saloons. The central hall occupied the whole height of the edifice, and was lighted from the upper story.

The great ambition of every courtier was to be of the Marly circle, and all curried favor with the king by asking to accompany him on his weekly journey to Marly. The Court used to arrive at Marly on a Wednesday and leave it on a Saturday; this was an invariable rule. The king always passed his Sundays at Versailles, which was his parish. … The leading figure at Marly was Mme. de Maintenon, who occupied the apartments intended for Queen Marie Therese, but who led the simplest of lives, bored almost to extinction. She used to compare the carp languishing in the tanks of Marly to herself--"Like me they regret their native mud." … At first Mme. de Maintenon dined, in the midst of the other ladies in the square salon which separated her apartment from that of the king; but soon she had a special table, to which a very few other ladies, her intimates, came by invitation.

Marly was the scene of several of the most tragic events in the life of Louis XIV. "Everything is dead here, there's no life in any thing," wrote the Comtesse de Caylus, niece of Mme. de Maintenon, from Marly to the Princess des Ursins, after the death of the Duchesse de Bourgogne. And, in a few days afterward, Marly was the scene of the sudden death of the Dauphin, Duc de Bourgogne, the beloved pupil of Fenelon. Early in the morning after the death of his wife, he was persuaded, "ill and anguished with the most intimate and bitterest of sorrows," to follow the king to Marly, where he entered his own room by a window on the ground floor.

It was also at Marly--"ill-omened Marly"--that the Duc de Berry, the younger grandson of Louis XIV., and husband of the profligate daughter of the Duc d' Orleans--afterward Regent, died, with great suspicion of poison, in 1714. The MS. memorials of Mary Beatrice by a sister of Chaillot, describe how, when Louis XIV. was mourning his beloved grandchildren, and that queen, whom he had always liked and respected, had lost her darling daughter Louisa, she went to visit him at Marly where "they laid aside all Court etiquette, weeping together in their common grief, because, as the Queen said, We saw that the aged were left, and that death had swept away the young." St. Simon depicts the last walk of the king in the gardens at Marly on August 10, 1715. He went away that evening to Versailles, where he died on September 1.

Marly was abandoned during the whole time of the Regency, and was only saved from total destruction in 1717, when the Regent Philippe d'Orleans had ordered its demolition, by the spirited remonstrance of St. Simon…. The great pavilion itself only contained, as we have seen, a very small number of chambers. The querulous Smollett, who visited Marly in 1763, speaks of it as "No more than a pigeon-house in respect to a palace." But it was only intended as the residence of the king.

During the repairs necessary in the reign of Louis XV., who built Choisy and never lived at Marly, the cascade which fell behind the great pavilion was removed. Mme. Campan describes the later Marly of Louis XVI., under whom the "Marly journey" had become one of the great burdens and expenses of royal life. The Court of Louis XVI. was here for the last time on June 11, 1789, but in the latter years of Louis XVI., M. de Noailles, governor of St. Germain, was permitted to lend the smaller pavilions furnished to his friends for the summer months. Marly perished with the monarchy, and was sold at the Revolution, when the statues of its gardens were removed to the Tuileries. A cotton mill was for a time established in the royal pavilion; then all the buildings were pulled down and the gardens sold in lots!

Still the site is worth visiting. The Grille Royale, now a simple wooden gate between two pillars with vases, opens on the road from St. Germain to Versailles, at the extremity of the Aqueduct of Marly. Passing this, one finds oneself in an immense circular enclosure, the walls of which surround the forest on every side.



[20] From "Days Near Paris."