Montesquieu

Usbek to Rhedi in Venice


The monarch who rei­gned for so long is no more.1 He made peo­ple talk a lot when he was alive ; eve­ryone has fal­len silent at his death. Steady and cou­ra­geous in that final moment, he see­med to yield only to fate. So died the great Shah Abas, after filling the entire earth with his name.2

Do not think that this great event has pro­vo­ked only moral reflec­tions here. Everyone thinks of his own busi­ness, and of taking his advan­ta­ges of this change. The king, great-grand­son of the decea­sed monarch, being only five,3 his uncle, a prince, has been decla­red regent of the king­dom.4

The late king had made a will which limi­ted the regent’s autho­rity. The shrewd prince went before the Parlement, and set­ting forth all the rights of his birth, he has had the depo­si­tion of the monarch,5 who, wishing to sur­vive him­self, see­med to have pre­ten­ded still to reign after his death, annul­led.

The par­le­ments are like those ruins that one treads under­foot, but which always recall some tem­ple famous for the peo­ples’ ancient reli­gion. About the only thing they now concern them­sel­ves with is the dis­pen­sing of jus­tice ; and their autho­rity is always lan­gui­shing unless some unfo­re­seen coin­ci­dence comes along to res­tore their strength and life. These great bodies have fol­lo­wed the des­tiny of human things : they have yiel­ded to time, which des­troys eve­ry­thing ; to the cor­rup­tion of morals, which has wea­ke­ned eve­ry­thing ; to the supreme autho­rity, which has brought eve­ry­thing down.6

But the regent, who has tried to become accep­ta­ble by the peo­ple, at first see­med to res­pect this image of public free­dom ; and as if he had inten­ded to raise the tem­ple and the idol back up from the ground, he has wan­ted them to be regar­ded as the sup­port of the monar­chy and foun­da­tion of all legi­ti­mate autho­rity.

Paris this 4th day of the moon of Regeb 1715

The king died just three days before this letter, the date of which corresponds to 4 September 1715.

“Great” because he had taken back several cities and provinces from the Turks and Portuguese. He too was “steadfast and courageous in his final moment” (Moreri 1707, art. “Schach Abas”.)

Louis XV was born in 1710.

Philippe d’Orléans, nephew of Louis XIV.

Louis XIV’s testament had instituted a regency council of fourteen, entrusting the young king’s education to the Duc du Maine, to whom the officers of the king’s household were to swear obedience. But Parlement at the regent’s insistence annulled the testament.

Through the right to petition which the regent re-established on 15 September 1715, the courts recovered a role which the monarch had suppressed.