At the advanced age of 73, Fleury came to hold the reins of government in France. Yet the burden of affairs was heavy and it remained to be seen whether Fleury could carry it, for how long and with how much help. Fortunately, despite his years, in 1726 he was in the best of health: ‘He was still a man of handsome features. He had a fresh complexion, bright eyes, a penetrating regard, a high forehead, a well made nose, red lips, his height was above average, straight and easy, his step was firm and his carriage was noble’.1 This contemporary description reveals a man scarcely changed in aspect from the famous portrait of 1705 by Rigaud. The years at least weighed lightly on him.