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On this day in 1661 the French Superintendent of Finance Nicolas Fouquet was arrested on suspicion of mismanagement of the king’s finances.
The young King Louis XIV, succeeding at the age of five, had famously said on coming of age, that he would be ‘his own first minister’. He had distrusted Fouquet for some time but especially after paying a visit to Vaux le Vicomte, the huge château that Fouquet had built and where Louis was entertained to a memorable and lavish Fête. A few weeks later Fouquet was arrested, tried and imprisoned in the fortress of Pignerol.
The whole affair was an example of the harsh and decisive way in which the young Louis established his authority. Louis had grown up with a deep distrust of the aristocracy and of Paris, after witnessing as a child the revolt of many nobles against the monarchy (known as the ‘fronde’) which had turned Paris into a battleground for several years. This led to him establishing a new court at Versailles, where he could keep an eye on them.
Today’s poem by the 18th century poet Isaac Watts, is based on Psalm 146, Put Not Your Trust in Princes:
I’ll praise my Maker while I’ve breath,
And when my voice is lost in death,
Praise shall employ my nobler powers;
My days of praise shall ne’er be past,
While life, and thought, and being last,
Or immortality endures.
Why should I make a man my trust?
Princes must die and turn to dust;
Vain is the help of flesh and blood:
Their breath departs,
Their pomp, and power,
And thoughts, all vanish in an hour,
Nor can they make their promise good
Today I give thanks that I do not rely on the patronage of others for my well-being.