St. Cyr: Madame de Maintenon as Educationalist

Nancy Mitford describes how the King himself, Racine, Bossuet and Fenelon all became involved in the stormy history of St. Cyr.

Some years before her secret marriage to Louis XIV, Madame de Maintenon, with her bosom friend Madame de Brinon, had started a small school for girls. Having had a difficult youth herself, she had always felt sorry for children of the minor provincial nobility to which she belonged. The daughters of many of the hobereaux, or country squires, then led particularly miserable lives. They were quite uneducated; and those who did not marry often became the servants of their sisters-in-law or went, without vocation, into convents.

Madame de Maintenon wished to rescue some of these girls, and give them the advantage of a decent modem schooling. Her friend and assistant, Madame de Brinon, an Ursuline nun whose convent had closed for lack of funds, is best known in England as the author of the lines that inspired God Save the King:

Grand Dieu sauvez le roi!

Grand Dieu vengez le roi!

Vive le roi

Qu’a jamais glorieux

Louis victorieux

Voit ses ennemis toujours soumis.

Vive le roi!1

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