19 OCTOBER 1929, Page 27

The Childhood of Louis XIII Nursery Life Three Hundred Years

Ago. By Lucy Crump. (Routledge. 10s. 6d.) THERE is no such unanswerable puzzle in all literature as the small part that children play in it. The silent nurseries of the past have nothing in them but names. Mrs. Crump, by a most skilful admixture of quotation and comment, has peopled one early seventeenth century nursery for us—the nursery of ,Louis XIII. We can ahr_ost hear the din that comes through the open doors of the children's rooms at St. Germain, the laughter and crying, the singing and drumming, quarrelling and admonishing which never ceased *pile " the children of France " were awake. Tbia::ebarming: Writer-has • translated from the diary, _ef Jean Heroard, pliyiiCiiin-th the Dauphin, all that relates to the early childhood of the eldest son of Henry of' Navarre and Marie de Medici. Heroard was more than fifty ,when he hecaMe the Dauphin's doctor, but he and his patient were 'fast friends before the child could speak plainly.' He would sit by the baby's cradle and watch over and amuse hint_whether he were ill or well. " We ought," he said, " to lisp with little- children, by which I mean we ought to

accommodate ourselves to their weakness and teach them rather by way of gentleness and patience than by harshness

or hastiness." The old doctor's frank delight in the little boy's affection is very_ pretty. The child is always trying to slip upstairs to the turret room where he is sure of finding :a

kind friend to' shOw him' picture books.' Hereard hears him crying in the garden and asking between his sobs for " Moucheu Heoud." If he is away for a few days the welcome of his little lord warms his heart.

" I got back from Paris at a quarter past three and greeted Monseigneur le Dauphin with ' God give you good day.' He pretended not to see me and began to run about hiding behind this thing and that, glancing at me with eyes full of happiness and then laughing as he ran by me held out his hand to be kissed. He behaves like this to those he loves."

An immense circle of attendants and dependents swarmed about the heir to the throne. His nurse, his gouvernante,

his tutor, his dresser, his cradle rockers and his musicians, went with him from palace to palace, but no one but his doctor would seem to have been gentle or sympathetic. Henry loved the society of his children, legitimate or

illegitimate ; he kissed them, teased them, lost his temper as soon as they lost theirs, and then struck and frightened them. Heroard hated these noisy scenes. He tells in detail of one occasion when Henry really hurt the child, who " screamed himself silly '.' and was in such distress that " I had not the heart to watch him." His gouvernante, whom:, he always

called "Mamanga," could not make him say he was sorry and she again threatened him, and the poor doctor, with his

kind heart and modern theories, had to listen to Louis driven to -desperation, shouting, " Kill Mamanga, she is naughty, I'll

kill everyone, I'll kill God ! "

In spite, however, of frequent.. disturbances, , life at St. Germain-en-Laye must have been a happy one for children. As a little boy, Louis loved his home with the

strange poetic fervour which the very young' sometimes show for places. On first catching sight of it after some months of absence, he exclaimed, " Ah, St. Germain my darling St. Germain ! I'll call and you will come to me." Dogs, ponies, toys, bands, fountains, everything which could play, or be played with, were provided for the King's children, and the Dauphin led in every game. The sons of Iknry's mistresses were treated as royal, but the Dauphin never forgot that they were not " the Queen's sons." " A different breed of dogs," he said, with childish insolence. Even his own little brother and sister he insisted should give place to him. Madame Elizabeth, however, used to stand up to him. " You must not behave like that," she shouted, one day, from her end of the table when her brother had refused to sit down with M. de Verneuil. " Nobody thinks you are the King's only son ! You mustn't have such fancies. Mamanga will purge them out of you with smacks." Louis pretended not to hear.

Heioard's account of the Dauphin's public conduct when he had to appear at State or religious functions differed very materially from the official version written down—or rather " written up "--by the reporters of the day. When,

on Maundy Thursday, he was asked in the face of a large congregation to wash the feet of thirteen poor men lie was supposed to have acquitted himself with singular grace. As a matter of fact, it was impossible to make him do it. He was forced up to the line of feet waiting his ministrations, but he shrank back and refused to touch them because " they smelt," so someone else had , to perform the ceremony. In spite of all her threats and smacks, his gouvernante was

never sure of him in public.

His punishments were often deferred till next morning, a system which gave the poor child many bad nights. Oddly enough, his upbringing did not brutalise him, not at least as a boy. When it was. suggested to him that several of his dogs were getting old and ugly and should be got rid of, he was horrified and said, " Oh, no ! I want to take care of the old ones."

Where was his mother all this time ? She seems to have taken no notice of her young children. But even about that singularly unpleasant character, Marie de Medici, Mrs. Crump has one favourable story to tell. During the first weeks after the Dauphin's birth little " M. Alexandre de Vendome " was found hanging about the nursery door. The nurse asked him what he wanted ; he replied, " I don't know why it is but everybody used to talk to me and now nobody says anything." The good woman told the Queen,

and she was full of pity " and " at once gave orders that he was to • be petted as much or more than formerly." The story, comes from the midwife. Perhaps the sulky queen had a heart after all.

According to the verdict of history, Louis XIII. had a bad character, but those who have studied Heroard's picture of his childhood will hardly assent to that verdict. They will say, " Not altogether," or, at least, " Not always."