Louis XIV petted himself more than any living creature; yet he had some sympathy to spare for his numerous dogs; he even had their portraits painted, at a considerable cost; and he also, presumably, had a favorite cat—if the story in Swift’s Memoirs is one to be relied upon. This story is to the effect that during the reign of Queen Anne, a Miss Nelly Bennet, a young lady who took prestige as a great beauty, visited the French court.
She traveled in the care of witty Dr. Arbuthnot, who in a letter to the Dean, describes the outbursts of admiration that greeted his fair charge. “She had great honours done her,” he remarks, then adds,“and the hussar himself was ordered to bring her the king’s cat to kiss."
When this important bit of news came to be reported in England, a wit, now unknown, wrote a poem on the event, describing how
When as Nelly came to France
(Invited by her cousins),
Across the Tuileries each glance
Killed Frenchmen by whole dozens.
The king, as he at dinner sat,
Did beckon to his hussar,
And bid him bring his tabby-cat
For charming Nell to buss her."