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The Life of Marie de Medicis, Vol. 1 (of 3)
by Julia Pardoe
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Sully had felt that it was unnecessary to explain himself more clearly, as a reconciliation between Henri IV and his erring consort had, from the profligate life which she was known to have led at Usson, become utterly impossible; nor could she doubt for an instant the nature of the sacrifice which was required at her hands. It was not, therefore, without great anxiety that he awaited her reply, which did not reach him for the space of five months; at the expiration of which period he received a letter, wherein she averred her willingness to submit to the pleasure of the King, for whose forbearance she expressed herself grateful; offering at the same time her acknowledgments to the Duke himself for the interest which he exhibited towards her person. From this period a continued correspondence was maintained between the exiled Queen and the minister; and she proved so little exacting in the conditions which she required as the price of her concession, that the affair would have been concluded without difficulty, had not the favourite, who was privy to the negotiation, calculating upon her influence over the mind of the monarch, suddenly assumed an attitude which arrested its progress.

For a considerable time she had aspired to the throne; but it was not until she learnt that the agents of the King in Rome were labouring to effect the dissolution of his marriage with Marguerite de Valois, and that the Duc de Luxembourg[48] was also about to visit the Papal Court in order to hasten the conclusion of the negotiations, that she openly declared her views to Sillery,[49] whom she knew to be already well affected towards her, declaring that should he be instrumental in inducing the King to make her his wife, she would pledge herself to obtain the seals for him on his return from Rome, as well as the dignity of chancellor so soon as it should be vacant.[50]

Sillery, whose ambition was aroused, was not slow to obey her wishes; and, finding the Pope unwilling to lend himself to the haste which was required of him, he not only informed him privately that, in the event of a divorce, his royal master was ready to espouse the Princesse Marie de Medicis, his kinswoman (although at this period Henry evinced no inclination towards such an alliance), but even when he discovered that his Holiness remained unmoved by this prospect of family aggrandizement, he ventured so far as to hint, in conjunction with the Cardinal d'Ossat, that it was probable, should the Pontiff continue to withhold his consent to the annullation of the King's present marriage, he would dispense with it altogether, and make the Duchesse de Beaufort Queen of France: a threat which so alarmed the sovereign-prelate that, immediately declaring that he placed the whole affair in the hands of God, he commanded a general fast throughout Rome, and shut himself up in his oratory, where he continued for a considerable time in fervent prayer. On his reappearance he was calm,[51] and simply remarked: "God has provided for it."

A few days subsequently a courier arrived at Rome with intelligence of the death of the Duchess.

Meanwhile Gabrielle, by her unbridled vanity, had counteracted all the exertions of her partisans. Aware of her power over the King, and believing that this divorce from Marguerite once obtained, she should find little difficulty in overcoming all other obstacles, she was unguarded enough prematurely to assume the state and pretensions of the regality to which she aspired, affecting airs of patronage towards the greatest ladies of the Court, and lavishing the most profuse promises upon the sycophants and flatterers by whom she was surrounded. The infatuation of the King, whose passion for his arrogant mistress appeared to increase with time, tended, as a natural consequence, to encourage these unseemly demonstrations; nor did the friends of the exiled Queen fail to render her cognizant of every extravagance committed by the woman who aspired to become her successor; upon which Marguerite, who, morally fallen as she was in her own person, had never forgotten that she was alike the daughter and the consort of a king, suddenly withdrew her consent to the proposed divorce; declaring, in terms more forcible than delicate, that no woman of blighted character should ever, through her agency, usurp her place.

The sudden and frightful death of the Duchess, which shortly afterwards supervened, having, however, removed her only objection to the proposed measure, her marriage with the King was, at length, finally declared null and void, to the equal satisfaction of both parties. The event which Marguerite had dreaded had now become impossible, and she at once[52] forwarded a personal requisition to Rome, in which she declared that "it was in opposition to her own free will that her royal brother King Charles IX and the Queen-mother had effected an alliance to which she had consented only with her lips, but not with her heart; and that the King her husband and herself being related in the third degree, she besought his Holiness to declare the nullity of the said marriage." [53]

On the receipt of this application, the Pontiff—having previously ascertained that the demand of Henry himself was based on precisely the same arguments, and still entertaining the hope held out to him by Sillery that the King would, when liberated from his present wife, espouse one of his own relatives—immediately appointed a committee, composed of the Cardinal de Joyeuse, the Archbishop of Arles,[54] and the Bishop of Modena, his nuncio and nephew, instructing them, should they find all circumstances as they were represented, to declare forthwith the dissolution of the marriage.[55]

Meanwhile the King, whose first burst of grief at the loss of the Duchess had been so violent that he fainted in his carriage on receiving the intelligence, and afterwards shut himself up in the palace of Fontainebleau during several days, refusing to see the princes of the blood and the great nobles who hastened to offer their condolences, and retaining about his person only half a dozen courtiers to whom he was personally attached, had recovered from the shock sufficiently to resume his usual habits of dissipation and amusement. In the extremity of his sorrow he had commanded a general Court mourning, and himself set the example by assuming a black dress for the first week; but as his regret became moderated, he exchanged his sables for a suit of violet, in which costume he received a deputation from the Parliament of Paris which was sent to condole with him upon the bereavement that he had undergone![56] while the intelligence which reached him of the presumed treachery of the Duc de Biron, by compelling his removal to Blois, where he could more readily investigate the affair, completed a cure already more than half accomplished. There the sensual monarch abandoned himself to the pleasures of the table, to high play, and to those exciting amusements which throughout his whole life at intervals annihilated the monarch in the man: while the circle by which he had surrounded himself, and which consisted of M. le Grand[57], the Comte de Lude[58], MM. de Thermes[59], de Castelnau[60], de Calosse, de Montglat,[61] de Frontenac,[62] and de Bassompierre,[63] was but ill calculated to arouse in him better and nobler feelings. Ambitious, wealthy, witty, and obsequious, they were one and all interested in flattering his vanity, gratifying his tastes, and pandering to his passions; and it is melancholy to contemplate the perfect self-gratulation with which some of the highest-born nobles of the time have in their personal memoirs chronicled the unblushing subserviency with which they lent themselves to the encouragement of the worst and most debasing qualities of their sovereign. Even before his departure for Blois, and during the period of his temporary retirement from the Court, while Henry still wore the mourning habits which he had assumed in honour of his dead mistress, the more intimate of his associates could discover no means of consolation more effective than by inducing him to select another favourite.

"All the Court," says a quaint old chronicler, himself a member of the royal circle, "were aware that the King had a heart which could not long preserve its liberty without attaching itself to some new object, a knowledge which induced the flatterers at Court who had discovered his weakness for the other sex to leave nothing undone to urge him onward in this taste, and to make their fortunes by his defeat." [64]

Unfortunately the natural character of the King lent itself only too readily to their designs; and, as already stated, they had profited by the opportunity afforded to them during the short retreat at Fontainebleau to arouse the curiosity of Henry on the subject of a new beauty. Whether at table, at play, or lounging beneath the shady avenues of the stately park, the name of Catherine Henriette d'Entragues was constantly introduced into the conversation, and always with the most enthusiastic encomiums;[65] nor was it long ere their pertinacity produced the desired effect, and the monarch expressed his desire to see the paragon of whom they all professed to be enamoured. A hunting-party was accordingly organized in the neighbourhood of the chateau of Malesherbes, where the Marquis d'Entragues was then residing with his family; and the fact no sooner became known to the mother of the young beauty, whose ambition was greater than her morality, and who was aware of the efforts which had been made to induce Henry to replace the deceased Duchess by a new favourite, than she despatched a messenger to entreat of his Majesty to rest himself under her roof after the fatigue of the chase. The invitation was accepted, and on his arrival Henriette was presented to the King, who was immediately captivated by her wit, and that charm of youthfulness which had for some time ceased to enhance the loveliness of the once faultless Gabrielle. At this period Mademoiselle d'Entragues had not quite attained her twentieth year, but she was already well versed in the art of fascination. Advisedly overlooking the monarch in the man, she conversed with a perfect self-possession, which enabled her to display all the resources of a cultivated mind and a lively temperament; while Henry was enchanted by a gaiety and absence of constraint which placed him at once on the most familiar footing with his young and brilliant hostess; and thus instead of departing on the morrow, as had been his original design, he remained during several days at Malesherbes, constantly attended by the Marquise and her daughter, who were even invited to share the royal table.[66]

The Duchesse de Beaufort had been dead only three weeks, and already the sensual monarch had elected her successor.

Less regularly handsome than Gabrielle d'Estrees, Mademoiselle d'Entragues was even more attractive from the graceful vivacity of her manner, her brilliant sallies, and her aptitude in availing herself of the resources of an extensive and desultory course of study. She remembered that, in all probability, death alone had prevented Gabrielle d'Estrees from ascending the French throne; and she was aware that, although less classically beautiful than the deceased Duchess, she was eminently her superior in youth and intellect, and, above all, in that sparkling conversational talent which is so valuable amid the ennui of a court. Well versed in the nature of the monarch with whom she had to deal, Mademoiselle d'Entragues accordingly gave free course to the animation and playfulness by which Henry was so easily enthralled; skilfully turning the sharp and almost imperceptible point of her satire against the younger and handsomer of his courtiers, and thus flattering at once his vanity and his self-love. Still, the passion of the King made no progress save in his own breast. At times Mademoiselle d'Entragues affected to treat his professions as a mere pleasantry, and at others to resent them as an affront to her honour; at one moment confessing that he alone could ever touch her heart, and bewailing that destiny should have placed him upon a throne, and thus beyond the reach of her affection; and at another declaring herself ready to make any sacrifice rather than resign her claim upon his love, save only that by which she could be enabled to return it. This skilful conduct served, as she had intended that it should do, merely to irritate the passion of the monarch, who, unconscious of the extent of her ambition, believed her to be simply anxious to secure herself against future disappointment and the anger of her family; and thus finding that his entreaties were unavailing, he resolved to employ another argument of which he had already frequently tested the efficacy, and on his return to Fontainebleau he despatched the Comte de Lude to the lady with what were in that age termed "propositions."

It is, from this circumstance, sufficiently clear that Henry himself was far from feeling any inclination to share his throne with the daughter of Charles IX's mistress; and that, despite the infatuation under which he laboured, he already estimated at its true price the value of Henrietta's affection. Nevertheless, the wily beauty remained for some short time proof against the representations of the royal envoy; nor was it until the equally wily courtier hinted that Mademoiselle d'Entragues would do well to reflect ere she declined the overtures of which he was the bearer, as there was reason to believe that the King had, on a recent visit to the widowed Queen Louise[67] at Chenonceaux, become enamoured of Mademoiselle la Bourdaisiere, one of her maids of honour[68], that the startled beauty, who had deemed herself secure of her royal conquest, was induced to affix a price to the concession which she was called upon to make, and that M. de Lude returned bearing her ultimatum to the King.[69]

This ultimatum amounted to no less than a hundred thousand crowns;[70] and, setting aside the voluntary degradation of the lady—a degradation which would appear to have been more than sufficient to disgust any man of delicacy who sought to be loved for his own sake—it was a demand which even startled the inconsiderate monarch himself, although he had not sufficient self-command to meet it with the contempt that it was calculated to excite. Well had it been, alike for himself and for the nation generally, had he suffered his better judgment on this occasion to assume the ascendant, and misdoubted, as he well might, the tears and protestations of so interested a person; particularly, when he could not fail to remember that he had been deceived even by Gabrielle d'Estrees, whom he had overwhelmed with riches and honours, and who had voluntarily given herself to him when he was young and handsome; whereas he was now in the decline of life, and was suing for the love of one so much his junior. Unfortunately, however, reason waged a most unequal warfare with passion in the breast of the French sovereign; and voluntarily overlooking alike the enormity of the demand, and the circumstances under which it was made, he at once despatched an order to the finance-minister to supply the required sum. Sully had no alternative save obedience; he did not even venture upon expostulation; but he did better. When admitted to the royal closet, he alluded in general terms to the extreme difficulty which he anticipated in raising the required amount of four millions for the renewal of the Swiss alliance; and then, approaching the table beside which the King was seated, he proceeded slowly and ostentatiously to count the hundred thousand crowns destined to satisfy the cupidity of Mademoiselle d'Entragues. He had been careful to cause the whole amount to be delivered in silver; and it was not, therefore, without an emotion which he failed to conceal, that Henry saw the numerous piles of money which gradually rose before him and overspread the table.

Nevertheless, although he could not control an exclamation of astonishment, he made no effort to retrieve his error; but, after the departure of M. de Sully, placed the required amount in the hands of the Comte de Lude, who hastened to transfer it to those of the frail beauty. It was not until after the receipt of this enormous present that the Marquis d'Entragues and his step-son[71] affected to suspect the design of the King, and upbraided M. de Lude with the part which he had acted, desiring him never again to enter a house which he sought only to dishonour; an accusation which, from the lips of the husband of Marie Touchet, was a mere epigram. He, however, followed up this demonstration by removing his daughter from Malesherbes to Marcoussis, although with what intention it is difficult to determine, as the King at once proceeded thither, and at once obtained an interview.

Little accustomed to indulge in a prodigality so reckless, Henry had flattered himself that the affair was concluded; but such was by no means the intention of the young lady and her family. Henriette, indeed, received her royal lover with the most exaggerated assurances of affection and gratitude; but she nevertheless persisted in declaring that she was so closely watched as to be no longer mistress of her own actions, and so intimidated by the threats of her father that she dared not act in opposition to his will. In vain did the King remonstrate, argue, and upbraid; the lady remained firm, affecting to bewail the state of coercion in which she was kept, and entreating Henry to exert his influence to overcome the repugnance of her family to their mutual happiness. To his anger she opposed her tears; to his resentment, her fascinations; and when at length she discovered that the royal patience was rapidly failing, although her power over his feelings remained unshaken, she ventured upon the last bold effort of her ambition, by protesting to the infatuated sovereign that her father had remained deaf to all her entreaties, and that the only concession which she could induce him to make was one which she had not courage to communicate to his Majesty. As she had, of course, anticipated, Henry at once desired her to inform him of the nature of the fresh demand which was to be made upon his tenderness; when, with well-acted reluctance, Mademoiselle d'Entragues repeated a conversation that she had held with the Marquis, at the close of which he had assured her that he would never consent to see her the mistress of the King until she had received a written promise of marriage under the royal hand, provided she became, within a year, the mother of a son.

"In vain, Sire," she pursued hurriedly, as she perceived a cloud gather upon the brow of the monarch—"in vain did I seek to overcome the scruples of my parents, and represent to them the utter inutility of such a document; they declared that they sought only to preserve the honour of their house. And you well know, Sire," she continued with an appealing smile, "that, as I ventured to remind them, your word is of equal value with your signature, as no mere subject could dare to summon a great king like yourself to perform any promise—you, who have fifty thousand men at your command to enforce your will! But all my reasoning was vain. Upon this point they are firm. Thus then, since there is no other hope, and that they insist upon this empty form, why should you not indulge their whim, when it cannot involve the slightest consequence? If you love as I do, can you hesitate to comply with their desire? Name what conditions you please on your side, and I am ready to accept them—too happy to obey your slightest wish."

Suffice it that the modern Delilah triumphed, and that the King was induced to promise the required document;[72] a weakness rendered the less excusable, if indeed, as Sully broadly asserts: "Henry was not so blind but that he saw clearly how this woman sought to deceive him. I say nothing of the reasons which he also had to believe her to be anything rather than a vestal; nor of the state intrigues of which her father, her mother, her brother, and herself had been convicted, and which had drawn down upon all the family an order to leave Paris, which I had quite recently signified to them in the name of his Majesty." [73]

As it is difficult to decide which of the two the Duke sought in his Memoirs to praise the most unsparingly, the sovereign or himself, the epithet of "this weak Prince," which he applies to Henry on the present occasion, proves the full force of his annoyance. He, moreover, gives a very detailed account of an interview which took place between them upon the subject of the document in question; even declaring that he tore it up when his royal master placed it in his hands; and upon being asked by the King if he were mad, had replied by saying: "Would to God that I were the only madman in France!" [74] As, however, I do not find the same anecdote recorded elsewhere by any contemporaneous authority, I will not delay the narrative by inserting it at length; and the rather as, although from the influence subsequently exercised over the fortunes of Marie de Medicis by the frail favourite I have already been compelled to dwell thus long upon her history, it is one which I am naturally anxious to abridge as much as possible. I shall therefore only add that the same biographer goes on to state that the contract which he had destroyed was rewritten by the King himself, who within an hour afterwards was on horseback and on his way to Malesherbes, where he sojourned two days. It is, of course, impossible to decide whether Henry had ever seriously contemplated the fulfilment of so degrading an engagement; but it is certain that only a few months subsequently he presented to Mademoiselle d'Entragues the estate of Verneuil, and that thenceforward she assumed the title of Marquise, coupled with the name of her new possession.[75]

FOOTNOTES:

[2] Henri de Lorraine, Duc de Guise, was the brother of Charles, Duc de Mayenne, and of Louis, Cardinal de Guise. He was the chief of the League, and excited a popular revolt on the day of the Barricades, in the hope of possessing himself of the crown. Henri III caused him to be assassinated at Blois, in the year 1588. He was distinguished as le Balafre by the people, in consequence of the deep scar of a wound across the face by which he was disfigured.

[3] Catherine was the second daughter of Francois de Cleves, Duc de Nevers, and of Marguerite de Bourbon-Vendome, the aunt of Henri IV. Her dower consisted of the county of Eu, in Normandy. She was twice married; first to Antoine de Croi, Prince de Portien, by whom she had no issue; and secondly, to Henri de Lorraine, Duc de Guise. She died in 1633, at the age of eighty-five years.

[4] She heard three masses every day, one high and two low ones, and took the holy communion each week on the Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays.—Letters of Etienne Pasquier, book xxii. letter v. col. 666, of the folio edition.

[5] By some extraordinary presentiment they always imagined that they saw a King of France in the Prince of Navarre, even at a time when the greatest obstacles were opposed to such an idea.—Dreux du Radier, Memoires des Reines et Regentes de France, vol. v. p. 130. See also Memoires de Sully, vol. i. pp. 60-67.

[6] Dreux du Radier, vol. v. p. 182.

[7] Hist. des Reines et Regentes de France, vol. ii. p. 4.

[8] Henri de Bourbon, Prince de Conde, first Prince of the Blood, and Grand Master of France, was born in 1552, and succeeded his father, the Comte Louis, who was killed at the battle of Jarnac, on the 13th of May 1569, in the command of the Protestant party, conjointly with the King of Navarre (Henri IV). He made a levy of foreign troops in 1575, distinguished himself at Coutras in 1587, and died by poison the following year at St. Jean d'Angely.

[9] Ambroise Pare was born at Laval (Mayenne), in 1509. He commenced his public career as surgeon of the infantry-general Rene de Montejean; and on his return to France, having taken his degrees at the College of St. Edme, he was elected Provost of the Corporation of Surgeons. In 1552, Henri II gave him the appointment of body-surgeon to the King, a post which he continued to fill under Francis II, Charles IX, and Henri III. Charles IX, whose life he saved when he had nearly fallen a victim to the want of skill of his physician Portail, who, in opening a vein, had inflicted a deep and dangerous wound in his arm, repaid the benefit by concealing him in his own chamber during the massacre of St. Bartholomew. Pare was a zealous Calvinist. He died in 1590. His published works consist of one folio volume, divided into twenty-eight books.

[10] Gillone Goyon, dite de Matignon, demoiselle de Torigni, was the daughter of Jacques de Matignon, Marshal of France, and of Francoise de Daillon, who was subsequently married to Pierre de Harcourt, Seigneur de Beuvron.

[11] Levi Alvares, Hist. Clas. des Reines et Regentes de France, p. 185.

[12] Dupleix, Hist. de Louis XIII, p. 53.

[13] Sully, Memoires, vol. i. p. 45.

[14] Catherine de Bourbon, Princesse de Navarre, and sister of Henri IV, was born at Paris in 1558. After his accession to the throne of France, Henry gave her in marriage to Henri de Lorraine, Duc de Bar. She refused to change her religion, even when her brother had done so, and died, without issue, in 1604, at Nancy.

[15] Memoires de Marguerite, pp. 176, 177.

[16] Anne, Duc de Joyeuse, Admiral and Peer of France, first gentleman of the bedchamber, and Governor of Normandy, was born in 1561. He was one of the mignons of Henri III, who, in 1582, gave him in marriage Marguerite de Lorraine, the sister of the Queen Louise de Vaudemont. He commanded the troops in Guienne against the Huguenots, where he exercised the greatest cruelties; and having been defeated at the battle of Coutras in 1587, he was put to death by the conquerors.

[17] This child, called by Bassompierre le Pere Archange, and by Dupleix le Pere Ange, was the son of Jacques de Harlay de Chanvallon, known at Court as "the handsome Chanvallon," and was the individual who, as the confessor of the Marquise de Verneuil, became one of the most active agents in the conspiracy which was formed against Henri IV and the French Princes.

[18] Dreux du Radier, vol. v. p. 176.

[19] Mezeray, vol. iii. p. 546. Varillas, Histoire de Henri III, book vii.

[20] D'Aubigny, Hist. vol. ii. book v. ch. iii. (1583). Confession de Sancy, ch. vii. p. 447. Duplessis-Mornay.

[21] Duplessis-Mornay, Mem. p. 203.

[22] Jacques Govon de Matignon, Prince de Mortagne, was the representative of a family of Brittany which traced its descent from the thirteenth century, and had been established in Normandy towards the middle of the fifteenth. Born at Lonray in 1526, he was appointed Lieutenant-General of Normandy in 1559, where he made himself conspicuous by his persecution of the Huguenots. Henri III recompensed his services, in 1579, by the baton of a marechal, and the collar of his Order. He subsequently became Commander-in-Chief of the army in Picardy, then Lieutenant-General of Guienne, and finally, Governor of that province. He died in 1597.

[23] Levi Alvares, p. 187.

[24] Governor of Auvergne.

[25] The fortress of Usson, which had been a state prison under Louis XI, was demolished by Louis XIII, in 1634.

[26] Brantome, Dames Illustres, Marguerite de France, Reine de Navarre, Dis. v. p. 275.

[27] "There are three things," Henri IV was wont to say, "that the world will not believe, and yet they are certainly true: that the Queen of England (Elizabeth) died a maid; that the Archduke (Albert, Cardinal and Archduke of Austria) is a great captain; and that the King of France is a very good Catholic."—L'Etoile, Journ. de Henri IV, vol. i. p. 233.

[28] Diane d'Andouins, Vicomtesse de Louvigni, dame de l'Escun, was the only daughter of Paul, Vicomte de Louvigni, Seigneur de l'Escun, and of Marguerite de Cauna. While yet a mere girl, she became the wife of Philibert de Grammont, Comte de Guiche, Governor of Bayonne, and Seneschal of Bearn. The passion of Henri IV for this lady was so great that he declared his intention of obtaining a divorce from Marguerite de Valois, for the purpose of making her his wife; a project from which he was dissuaded by D'Aubigny, who represented that the contempt which could not fail to be felt by the French for a monarch who had degraded himself by an alliance with his mistress, would inevitably deprive him of the throne in the event of the death of Henri III and the Duc d'Alencon.

[29] Gabrielle d'Estrees was the daughter of Antoine d'Estrees, fourth of the name, Governor, Seneschal, and first Baron of Boulonnois, Vicomte de Soissons and Bersy, Marquis de Coeuvres, Knight of the Orders of the King, Governor of La Fere, Paris, and the Isle of France; and of Francoise Babou, second daughter of Jean, Seigneur de la Bourdaisiere, and of Francoise Robertet. She married at an early age, by the desire of her father, who was anxious to protect her from the assiduities of the King, Nicolas d'Armeval, Seigneur de Liancourt, who was, alike in birth, in person, and in fortune, unworthy of her hand. This ill-assorted union produced the very result which it was intended to avert, for Henry found means to separate the young couple immediately after their marriage, and to attach Gabrielle to the Court, where she soon became the declared favourite. On the birth of her first child (Cesar, Duc de Vendome), Madame de Liancourt abandoned the name of her husband, from whom she obtained a divorce, and assumed that of Marquise de Monceaux, which she derived from an estate presented to her on that occasion by the King; and on the legitimation of her son in January 1595, she already aspired to the throne, and formed a party, headed by M. de Sillery, by whom her pretensions were encouraged. She was subsequently created Duchesse de Beaufort, and became the mother of Catherine-Henriette, married to the Duc d'Elboeuf, and of Alexandre de Vendome, Grand Prior of France, who were likewise legitimated. She died in childbirth, but not without suspicion of poison, on Easter Eve, in the year 1599.

[30] Henri de la Tour, Vicomte de Turenne, Duc de Bouillon, Peer and Marshal of France.

[31] Theodore Agrippa d'Aubigny was the son of Jean d'Aubigny, Seigneur de Brie, in Xaintonge, and of Catherine de Lestang, and was born on the 8th of February 1550. At the age of six years he read with equal facility the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages; and eighteen months afterwards translated the Crito of Plato. The persecutions of the Huguenots, which he witnessed in his early youth, and the solemn injunctions of his father to revenge their wrongs, rendered him one of the most zealous and uncompromising reformers under Henri IV. He died at Geneva on the 20th of April 1630, aged eighty years, and was buried in the cloisters of St. Pierre. D'Aubigny left behind him not only his own memoirs, which are admirably and truthfully written, but also the biting satire known as the Aventures du Baron de Foeneste, and the still more celebrated Confession de Sancy.

[32] Isabella Clara Eugenia, Infanta of Spain, was the second daughter of Philip II. She was the Gouvernante of the Low Countries; and although no longer either young or handsome, she possessed an extraordinary influence over her royal father, who was tenderly attached to her.

[33] Arabella Stuart, daughter of Charles, Earl of Lennox, the grandson of Margaret of Scotland, sister to Henry VIII.

[34] Isabeau de Baviere, Queen of Charles VI.

[35] Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange, second son of William, and of Anne, the daughter of Maurice, Elector of Saxony.

[36] Marie de Medicis was the daughter of Francis, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and of Jane, Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary, daughter of the Emperor Ferdinand.

[37] Louise-Marguerite de Lorraine was the daughter of Henri, Duc de Guise, surnamed le Balafre, and of Catherine of Cleves, subsequently Duchesse de Nemours. She was celebrated alike for her extreme beauty, her brilliant wit, and her great intellect. She wrote admirably for that age, and was the author of the Histoire des Amours du Grand Alcandre, and of some Court Chronicles, which she published under the patronymic of Dupilaust. Mademoiselle de Guise married Francois, Prince de Conti, son of the celebrated Louis, Prince de Conde, who was killed at Jarnac.

[38] Catherine de Lorraine, daughter of Charles, Duc de Mayenne, and of Henriette de Savoie-Villars, who became in February 1599 the wife of Charles de Gonzague, Duc de Nevers, and subsequently Duke of Mantua. She died on the 8th of March 1618, at the age of thirty-three years; and was consequently, at the period referred to in the text, only seventeen years old.

[39] Anne, daughter and heiress of Charles, last Duc d'Aumale, by whom the duchy was transferred to the house of Savoy.

[40] Mademoiselle de Longueville was the sister of Henri d'Orleans, first Duc de Longueville.

[41] Catherine de Rohan, second daughter of Rene II, Vicomte de Rohan, and of Catherine, the daughter and heiress of Jean de Parthenay, Seigneur de Soubise. When she had subsequently become the wife of the Duc de Deux-Ponts, Henry IV was so enamoured of her as to make dishonourable proposals, to which she replied by the memorable answer: "I am too poor, Sire, to be your wife, and too well-born to become your mistress."

[42] Diane de Luxembourg, who, in 1600-1, gave her hand to Louis de Ploesqueler, Comte de Kerman, in Brittany.

[43] Mademoiselle de Guemenee was the daughter of Louis de Rohan, Prince de Guemenee, first Duc de Montbazon.

[44] Sully, Mem. vol. iii. pp. 162-174.

[45] Denys de Marquemont, Archbishop of Lyons, and subsequently cardinal (1626). He did not, however, long enjoy this dignity, to obtain which he had exerted all his energies, as he died at the close of the same year. He was a truckling politician, and an ambitious priest.

[46] Arnaud d'Ossat was born in 1536 at Cassagnaberre, a small village of Armagnac, near Auch. His parents lived in great indigence during his infancy, and at nine years of age he became an orphan, totally destitute. He was placed as an attendant about the person of a young gentleman of family, whose studies he shared with such success that, from the fellow-student of his patron, he became his tutor. After some time he accompanied his employer to Paris, where by persevering industry he completed his education, and was enabled to give lessons in philosophy and rhetoric. He then proceeded to Bourges, where he studied legal jurisprudence under the famous Cujas. Paul de Foix, Archbishop of Toulouse, when about to proceed as ambassador to Rome, engaged him as his secretary; and while there, he embraced the ecclesiastical profession, and rendered himself perfectly conversant with the whole policy of the Papal Court. Henri III bestowed upon him the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Varennes, but, as his claim was contested, he immediately resigned it. Subsequently he was raised to the bishopric of Rennes, was created a cardinal in 1598, and some time afterwards was appointed to the see of Bayeux. His untiring devotion to the interests of France was ultimately recognized by his elevation to the dignity of minister under Henri IV.

[47] Jacques Davy Duperron was born at Berne in 1556, and being learned in mathematics, Greek, Hebrew, and philosophy, he became a professor of those sciences in Paris, where he obtained the appointment of reader to Henri III. Having embraced the ecclesiastical profession, he received from Henri IV (in 1591) the bishopric of Evreux, as a recompense for his devotion to the interests of Gabrielle d'Estrees. It was Duperron who obtained from the Pope the removal of the interdict fulminated against France. He ultimately became a cardinal, and Archbishop of Sens, and died in 1606.

[48] Henri de Luxembourg, Duc de Piney, was the descendant of the celebrated Comte de Saint-Pol, and that branch of the family became extinct in his person. He died in 1616.

[49] Nicolas Brulart, Seigneur de Sillery, was the elder son of Pierre Brulart, president of the Court of Requests at Paris. He obtained the office of court-councillor in 1573, and subsequently that of master of the Court of Requests. Henry IV, after his accession to the throne of France, appointed him ambassador to Switzerland; and on his return from that country, made him sixth president, that dignity having become vacant by the death of Jean Le Maitre. In 1598 he was one of the deputies by whom the peace of Vervins was concluded; and from thence he proceeded to Brussels with the Duc de Biron, to be present when the Archduke swore to the observance of the treaty. He next visited Italy as ambassador extraordinary to the Pope, where he negotiated the marriage of the King with Marie de Medicis. In 1604 Henri IV created in his favour the office of keeper of the seals of France; and finally, on the death of the Chancelier de Bellievre, he became his successor.

[50] Sully, Mem. vol. iii. pp. 189, 190.

[51] "Comme s'il fut revenu d'extase," says Perefixe, vol. ii. p. 300.

[52] In April 1599.

[53] Bernard de Montfaucon. Les Monumens de la Monarchie Francaise, Paris, 1733, in folio, vol. v. p. 396.

[54] Horace del-Monte.

[55] Mezeray, vol. x. p. 123.

[56] Maintenon, Mem., Amsterdam, 1756, vol. ii. p. 115.

[57] Roger de St. Larry, Duc de Bellegarde, was the favourite of three successive sovereigns. Henri III appointed him master of his wardrobe, and subsequently first gentleman of the chamber, and grand equerry. Henri IV made him a knight of his Orders in 1595; and ultimately Louis XIII continued to him an equal amount of favour. The preservation of Quilleboeuf, which he defended with great gallantry during the space of three weeks, with only forty-five soldiers and ten nobles, against the army of the Duc de Mayenne, acquired for him a renown which he never afterwards forfeited.

[58] Henri, Comte, and subsequently Duc, de Lude, was the last male representative of his family. He was appointed grand-master of the artillery in 1669, and died without issue in 1685.

[59] Jean de St. Larry de Thermes, brother of the Duc d'Aiguillon.

[60] Jacques, Marquis de Castelnau, subsequently Marshal of France, who, in 1658, commanded the left wing of the army at the battle of the Dunes, and died the same year, at the early age of thirty-eight.

[61] Francois de Paule de Clermont, Marquis de Montglat, first maitre d'hotel to the King.

[62] M. de Frontenac was one of the officers of Henry IV who, before his accession to the throne of France (in 1576), had a quarrel with M. de Rosny, during which he told him that if he were to pull his nose, he could only draw out milk; a taunt to which the future minister replied by an assurance that he felt strong enough to draw blood out of that of his adversary with his sword. The peculiarity of this quarrel existed in the fact that, although De Rosny was a Protestant, and Frontenac a Catholic, M. de Turenne nevertheless espoused the cause of the latter; upon which M. de Lavardin, a Catholic, declared himself ready to second the arms of the adverse party.

[63] Francois, Baron de Bassompierre, was the son of Christophe de Bassompierre and Louise de Radeval, and was born on the 12th of April 1579, at the chateau of Harouel, in Lorraine. He became at an early age the intimate companion and favourite of Henri IV, by whom he was appointed colonel-general of the Swiss troops. In the year 1603 he was made Marshal of France, and obtained great influence over both Marie de Medicis and her son Louis XIII. Richelieu, who became jealous of his favour, caused him to be imprisoned in the Bastille in 1631, where he remained for twelve years. He was an able diplomatist, a distinguished general, and a polished, though dissolute, courtier. He acquitted himself with great distinction in several sieges, and at his death, which occurred in 1646, he bequeathed to posterity his personal memoirs, which are among the most curious in the rich collections possessed by his countrymen.

[64] Rambure, unpublished Mem., 1599, vol. i. pp. 151, 152.

[65] Catherine Henriette de Balzac d'Entragues, subsequently known as the Marquise de Verneuil, was the elder daughter of the celebrated Marie Touchet, who, after having been the mistress of Charles IX, became the wife of Francois de Balzac, Seigneur d'Entragues, de Marcoussis and de Malesherbes, Governor of Orleans, who was, in 1573, elected a knight of St. Michael by Henri III. Henriette, as her name implies, was, together with her two sisters, the issue of this marriage; while her half-brother the Comte d'Auvergne, subsequently Duc d'Angouleme, was the son of Charles IX.

[66] Saint—Edme, Amours et Galanteries des Rois de France, Brussels, vol. ii. pp. 199, 200.

[67] Louise Marguerite de Lorraine, the widow of Henri III, was the elder daughter of Nicolas de Lorraine, Due de Mercoeur, Comte de Vaudemont, and of the Marquise d'Egmont, his first wife. Henri III having seen her at Rheims, during his temporary residence in that city, became enamoured of her person, and their marriage took place on the 5th of February 1575. Francois de Luxembourg, of the House of Brienne, had for some time paid his addresses to Mademoiselle de Lorraine, with the hope and intention of making her his wife; a fact which the licentious and frivolous King no sooner ascertained than he declared his inclination to effect an alliance between the disappointed suitor and his own mistress, Mademoiselle de Chateauneuf, for whom he was anxious to provide through this medium. He consequently proposed the arrangement to M. de Luxembourg on the day of his coronation, but received the cold and firm reply that the Count felt himself bound to congratulate Mademoiselle de Lorraine on her good fortune, since by changing her lover she had also been enabled to increase her dignity; but that, as regarded himself, since he could derive no benefit whatever from becoming the husband of Mademoiselle de Chateauneuf, he begged that his Majesty would excuse him from contracting such an alliance. The King, however, declared that he would admit of no refusal, and insisted upon his instant obedience; whereupon M. de Luxembourg demanded eight days to make the necessary preparations, to which Henry demurred, and it was finally arranged that he should be allowed three days for that purpose, after which he was to hold himself prepared to obey the royal command. These three days sufficed to enable the intended victim to make his escape, and he accordingly left the kingdom. His sarcasm against herself had so deeply irritated Queen Louise that after the death of her husband she entreated Henri IV to revenge her injured dignity upon her former suitor, but the monarch declined to aid in any further persecution of the unfortunate young noble. The married life of the Queen was a most unhappy one, and appeared to have entirely disgusted her with the world, as on becoming a widow she passed two years of seclusion and mourning at Chenonceaux, whence she removed to the chateau of Moulins, where she devoted herself to the most austere duties of religion. In her will, by which she bequeathed nearly the whole of her property to the Church and to charitable purposes, she left a large sum for the erection of a Capuchin convent at Bourges, where she desired that she might be ultimately interred; but by command of Henri IV the convent was built in the Faubourg St. Honore, at Paris, and her body deposited in the chapel.

[68] Sully, Mem. vol. iii. p. 312.

[69] Saint-Edme, p. 200.

[70] Equal, in the present day, to nearly five hundred thousand livres.

[71] Charles de Valois, the son of Charles IX and Marie Touchet, Dame de Belleville. He was subsequently Duc d'Angouleme and Grand Prior of France. He died in 1639.

[72] Dreux du Radier, vol. vi. pp. 62, 63. Saint-Edme, pp. 201, 202.

[73] Sully, Mem. vol. iii. pp. 313, 314.

[74] Sully, Mem. vol. iii. p. 315.

[75] Mezeray, vol. x. p. 124.



CHAPTER II

1599

Sully resolves to hasten the King's marriage—Ambassadors are sent to Florence to demand the hand of Marie de Medicis—The marriage articles are signed—Indignation of Madame de Verneuil—Revenge of her brother, the Comte d'Auvergne—The Duke of Savoy visits Paris—His reception—His profusion—His mission fails—Court poets—Marie de Medicis is married to the French King by procuration at Florence—Hostile demonstrations of the Duke of Savoy—Infatuation of the King for the favourite—Her pretensions—A well-timed tempest—Diplomacy of Madame de Verneuil—Her reception at Lyons—War in Savoy—Marie de Medicis lands at Marseilles—Madame de Verneuil returns to Paris—The Due de Bellegarde is proxy for the King at Florence—He escorts the new Queen to France—Portrait of Marie de Medicis—Her state-galley—Her voyage—Her reception—Henry reaches Lyons—The royal interview—Public rejoicings—The royal marriage—Henry returns to Paris—The Queen's jealousy is awakened—Profligate habits of the King—Marie's Italian attendants embitter her mind against her husband—Marie reaches Paris—She holds a court—Presentation of Madame de Verneuil to the Queen—Indignation of Marie—Disgrace of the Duchesse de Nemours—Self-possession of Madame de Verneuil—Marie takes possession of the Louvre—She adopts the French costume—Splendour of the Court—Festival given by Sully—A practical joke—Court festivities—Excessive gambling—Royal play debts—The Queen's favourite—A petticoat intrigue—Leonora Galigai appointed Mistress of the Robes—Reconciliation between the Queen and Madame de Verneuil—The King gives the Marquise a suite of apartments in the Louvre—Her rivalry of the Queen—Indignation of Marie—Domestic dissensions—The Queen and the favourite are again at war—Madame de Verneuil effects the marriage of Concini and Leonora—Gratitude of the Queen—Birth of the Dauphin—Joy of the King—Public rejoicings—Birth of Anne of Austria—Superstitions of the period—Belief in astrology—A royal anecdote—Horoscope of the Dauphin—The sovereign and the surgeon—Birth of Gaston Henri, son of Madame de Verneuil—Public entry of the Dauphin into Paris—Exultation of Marie de Medicis.

The infatuation of the King for his new favourite decided M. de Sully to hasten by every means in his power the marriage of the sovereign with some European princess worthy to share his throne, and he accordingly instructed the royal agents at Rome to demand forthwith the hand of Marie de Medicis for the French monarch; while Henry, absorbed in his passion, permitted him to act as he saw fit, offering neither assistance nor impediment to a negotiation on which his domestic happiness was in future to depend. Nor was it until the Duke urged upon him the necessity of selecting such of his nobility as it was his pleasure to entrust with the management of the affair in conjunction with the ambassador whom the Grand Duke, her uncle, was about to despatch to Paris, that, by dint of importunity, he was induced to name M. de Sully himself, the Constable, the Chancellor, and the Sieur de Villeroy,[76] whose son, M. d'Alincourt, had previously been sent to Rome to offer the acknowledgments of Henry to his Holiness for the dissolution of his marriage with Queen Marguerite, and to apprise him of that which he was desirous to contract with Marie de Medicis. This duty performed, M. d'Alincourt solicited the permission of the Pope to accompany Sillery to Florence to pay his respects to the Princess and to negotiate the alliance; and having obtained the required sanction, the two nobles set forth upon their embassy, quite unaware that the preliminaries were already nearly concluded.[77] So determined, indeed, had been the minister that no time should be afforded to the King to redeem the pledge which he had given to the favourite that Joannini, the agent of the Grand Duke, had not been many days in Paris before the articles were drawn up and signed on both sides, and Sully was commissioned by the other contracting parties to communicate the termination of their labours to his royal master. The account given by the minister of this interview is highly characteristic.

"He had not," says the chronicler, "anticipated such expedition; and thus when I had answered his question of where I had come from by 'We come, Sire, from marrying you,' the Prince remained for a quarter of an hour as though he had been stricken by thunder; then he began to pace the chamber with long strides, biting his nails, scratching his head, and absorbed by reflections which agitated him so violently that he was a considerable time before he was able to speak to me. I entertained no doubt that all my previous representations were now producing their effect; and so it proved, for ultimately recovering himself like a man who has at length taken a decided resolution: 'Well,' said he, striking his hands together, 'well, then, so be it; there is no alternative, since for the good of my kingdom you say that I must marry.'" [78]

Such was the ungracious acceptance of the haughty Florentine Princess at the hands of her future bridegroom.

The indignation of Madame de Verneuil was unbounded when she ascertained that she had for ever lost all hope of ascending the throne of France; but it is nevertheless certain that she was enabled to dissimulate sufficiently to render her society indispensable to the King, and to accept with a good grace the equivocal honours of her position. Her brother, the Comte d'Auvergne, was, however, less placable; he had always affected to believe in the validity of her claim upon the King, and his naturally restless and dissatisfied character led him, under the pretext of avenging her wrongs, to enter into a conspiracy which had recently been formed against the person of the King, whom certain malcontents sought to deprive alike of his throne and of his liberty, and to supersede in his sovereignty by one of the Princes of the Blood.[79] Among others, the Duke of Savoy,[80] who, during the troubles of 1588, had taken possession of the marquisate of Saluzzo, which he refused to restore, was said to be implicated in this plot; and he was the more strongly suspected as it had been ascertained that he had constant communication with several individuals at the French Court, and that he had tampered with certain of the nobles; among others, with the Duc de Biron.[81] He had also succeeded in attaching to his interests the Duchesse de Beaufort; and had, during her lifetime, proposed to the King to visit France in person in order to effect a compromise, which he anticipated that, under her auspices, he should be enabled to conclude with advantage to himself. Henry had accepted the proposition; and although after the death of the Duchess, M. de Savoie endeavoured to rescind his resolution, he found himself so far compromised that he was compelled to carry out his original purpose; and accordingly, on the 1st of December, he left Chambery with a train of twelve hundred horse, accompanied by the greater part of his ministers, his nobles, and the most magnificent members of his Court.[82] As the French King had issued orders that he should, in every city through which he passed, be received with regal honours, he did not reach Fontainebleau until the 14th of the same month, where he arrived just as his royal host was mounting his horse to meet him. As he approached Henry he bent his knee, but the King immediately raised and embraced him with great cordiality; and during the seven days which he spent at Fontainebleau the Court was one scene of splendour and dissipation. Balls, jousts, and hunting-parties succeeded each other without intermission, but the Duke soon perceived that the monarch had no intention of taking the initiative on the errand which had brought him to France, a caution from which he justly augured no favourable result to his expedition;[83] while on his side the subject was never alluded to by Sully or any of the other ministers without his giving the most unequivocal proofs of his determination to retain the marquisate.[84]



Meanwhile his conduct was governed by the most subtle policy; his bearing towards the monarch was at once deferential and familiar; his liberality was unbounded; and his courtesy towards the great nobles and the officials of the Court untiring and dignified.

On the eighth day after the arrival of the Duke at Fontainebleau the Court removed to Paris, where Henry had caused apartments to be prepared for his royal guest in the Louvre; but M. de Savoie, after offering his acknowledgments for the proffered honour, preferred to take up his abode in the house of his relative the Duc de Nemours, near the Augustine convent. The whole of the Christmas festival was spent in a succession of amusements as splendid as those with which he had been originally received; and on the 1st of January 1600, when it is customary in France to exchange presents, the Duke repaid all this magnificence by a profusion almost unprecedented. To the King, his offering was two large bowls and vases of crystal so exquisitely worked as to be considered unrivalled; while he tendered to Madame de Verneuil, who did the honours of the royal circle, and whom he was anxious to attach to his interests, a valuable collection of diamonds and other precious stones. Nor did his liberality end here, for there was not a great noble of the Court who was not enriched by his munificence save the Due de Biron; who, from policy, declined to accept some magnificent horses which were sent to him in the name of the Prince; and Sully, who, upon being presented by M. des Alimes, one of the principal Savoyard lords, with a snuff-box enriched with diamonds, and estimated at fifteen thousand crowns, containing a portrait of M. de Savoie, at once perceived that the costly offering was intended as a bribe, and declined to receive it, declaring that he had made a vow never to accept any present of value except from his own sovereign.[85]

The King responded to the liberality of his guest by the gift of a diamond star, of which the centre brilliant covered a miniature of Madame de Verneuil, together with other valuable jewels; but the profusion of the Duke was so great that his whole outlay upon this occasion was estimated at no less a sum than four hundred thousand crowns; and when it was believed that he must have exhausted his resources, he still further astonished the French nobles by appearing at a ball which he gave to the Court in a dress entirely covered with precious stones, and valued at a far higher sum than that which he had expended.[86]

That this profusion had been dictated by policy rather than by generosity was sufficiently apparent; and whatever effect it might have produced upon the minds of the courtiers, M. de Savoie was soon made aware that it had been utterly powerless over the resolution of the sovereign; for he no sooner ventured to allude to the subject of his journey, than Henry with his accustomed frankness declared his determination to enforce his right to the marquisate which his guest had usurped; an assurance which determined the Duke to request that a commission might be appointed to examine their conflicting claims.

His demand was conceded; commissioners were appointed on both sides, and the question was rigidly discussed; propositions were mutually made and mutually declined; until finally the King, by the advice of his council, despatched Sebastian Zamet[87] to the Duke of Savoy, with full authority to negotiate either a restitution or an exchange; giving him at the same time three months in which to consult his nobility, and to decide upon the one measure or the other.

So skilfully did the envoy perform his mission, that he ultimately succeeded in inducing M. de Savoie to propose to the King, as compensation for the contested marquisate, the cession of certain towns and citadels named in a treaty which was signed by the two contracting parties; and this arrangement had no sooner been concluded than the court resumed its career of gaiety; nor was it until the 7th of March that the Duke finally took leave of his royal entertainer, and commenced his homeward journey.[88]

Meanwhile the Court poets had not been idle; and while the Duke of Savoy had recognized the supremacy of the favourite by costly gifts, her favour had been courted by the most popular of those time-serving bards who were accustomed to make their talents subservient to their interests; nor is it the least remarkable feature of the age that the three most fashionable rhymesters in the circles of gallantry were all ecclesiastics, and that the charms and virtues of Henriette d'Entragues were celebrated by a cardinal, a bishop, and an abbe![89]

Her most palmy days were, however, at an end, for hitherto she had reigned undisputed mistress of the King's affections, and she was henceforward to hold at best a divided sway. On the 5th of May, M. d'Alincourt arrived at Fontainebleau from Florence, with the intelligence that, on the 25th of the preceding month, the contract of marriage between the French monarch and the Princesse Marie de Medicis had been signed at the Palazzo Pitti, in the presence of Carlo-Antonio Putei, Archbishop of Pisa, and the Duke of Bracciano; and that the bride brought as her dowry six hundred thousand crowns, besides jewels and other ornaments of value. He further stated that a "Te Deum" had been chanted, both in the Palazzo Pitti and at the church of the Annunciation at Florence; after which the Princesse Marie, declared Queen of France, had dined in public, seated under a dais above her uncle; and at the conclusion of the repast, the Duke of Bracciano had presented the water to wash her hands, and the Marquis de Sillery, the French Ambassador, the napkin upon which she wiped them. Having made his report, and delivered his despatches, M. d'Alincourt placed in the hands of the King a portrait of Marie richly set in brilliants, which had been entrusted to him for that purpose; and the lover of Madame de Verneuil found himself solemnly betrothed.[90]

This fact, however, produced little visible effect upon the Court circle, and still less upon the King himself; and after having afforded a subject of conversation for a brief interval, it soon appeared to be entirely forgotten amid the more absorbing matters of interest by which the minds of the different individuals were severally engrossed. From policy, the betrothal was never mentioned by the courtiers in the presence of Madame de Verneuil, a restraint which caused it to fall into partial oblivion; and the rather as the month of June had arrived without any demonstration on the part of the Duke of Savoy, who had availed himself of every possible pretext to evade the fulfilment of the treaty of Paris; and who had rendered it evident that force of arms alone could compel him to resign the usurped marquisate. Even the monarch himself became at length convinced of the impolicy of further delay, and resolved forthwith to advance to Lyons, whither Sully had already despatched both troops and artillery.[91] M. de Savoie had, however, during his sojourn in France, made many partisans, who urged upon their sovereign the expediency of still affording to the Duke an opportunity of redeeming his pledge; and Henry, even against his better reason, listened the more complacently to their counsels that Madame de Verneuil was about to become a mother, and he shrank from the idea of separation from her at such a moment. Thus he delayed his journey until Sully, who was not long in discovering the cause of his inaction, renewed his expostulations with still greater emphasis, and finally induced him to make preparations for an immediate departure. As the hour arrived, however, he again wavered, until at length he declared his determination to be accompanied by the Marquise; but this arrangement was, from her state of health, soon found to be impossible; and after considerable difficulty he was persuaded to consent that she should await his return at Monceaux, whither he himself conducted her, with renewed protestations that he loved her well enough to resign even then the alliance with Marie de Medicis, and to make her his wife.[92] This was precisely what the favourite still hoped to accomplish. She was aware of the extraordinary influence which she had obtained over the mind of her royal lover, and she looked forward to the birth of a son as the one thing necessary to her success. Accordingly, before she suffered the King to depart, she compelled him to promise that he would be near her during her illness; and then she reluctantly saw him set forth to Moulins, where he was detained for a fortnight, his council not being able to agree as to the expediency of the campaign.

There can be little doubt that under other circumstances Henry would have found means to bring them to a decision; but as he was enabled during their discussions to receive daily intelligence of the Marquise, he submitted quietly to a detention which seconded his own wishes.

At length the period arrived in which Madame de Verneuil was about to enforce her claim upon the tenderness of her royal lover, and already he spoke of returning for a while to Monceaux; when a violent storm, and the falling of a thunderbolt in the very chamber of the invalid, so affected her nervous system, that she lost the infant upon which she had based all her anticipations of greatness; and although the King hastened to condole with her upon her disappointment, and even remained in constant attendance upon her sick-bed until she was partially convalescent, the great link between them was necessarily broken; a fact of which she was so well aware that her temper gave way beneath the trial, and she bitterly upbraided her royal lover for the treachery of which she declared him to have been guilty in permitting his ministers to effect his betrothal with Marie de Medicis, when she had herself, as she affirmed, sacrificed everything for his sake. In order to pacify her anger, the King loaded her with new gifts, and consoled her by new protestations; nor did his weakness end there, for so soon as her health was sufficiently re-established, he wrote to entreat of her to join him at Lyons; although not before she had addressed to him a most submissive letter, in which she assured him that her whole happiness depended upon his affection, and that as she had too late become aware that his high rank had placed an inseparable barrier between them, and that her own insignificance precluded the possibility of her ever becoming his wife, she at least implored of him to leave to her the happiness of still remaining his mistress, and to continue to feel for her the same tenderness, with so many demonstrations of which he had hitherto honoured her.[93]

This was an appeal to which the enamoured monarch willingly responded, and the nature of her reception at Lyons tended still further to restore peace between them. What the Lyonnese had previously done in honour of Diane de Poitiers, when, as the accredited and official mistress of Henri II, she visited their city, they repeated in honour of Madame de Verneuil, whose entrance within their gates was rather that of a crowned queen than a fallen woman; and this triumph was shortly afterwards augmented by her reception of the standards taken by the King at Charbonnieres, which he caused to be conveyed to her as a proof of his devotion, and which she, with ostentatious pomp, transferred to the church of St. Just.

From Lyons, Henry proceeded to Grenoble, still accompanied by Madame de Verneuil, the Duke of Savoy having at length declared that rather than submit to the conditions which had been proposed to him, he would incur the hazard of a war. In consequence of this decision, immediate measures were taken by the French generals to march upon Saluzzo; and the Marechal de Biron, although already strongly suspected of disaffection to his sovereign, having collected a body of troops, possessed himself of the whole territory of Brescia. The town of Bourg was stormed by Du Terrail,[94] and taken, with the exception of the citadel; while M. de Crequy[95] entered Savoy, and made himself master of the city of Montmelian, although the castle still held out.

Henry then resolved to enter Savoy in person; and having once more taken leave of the Marquise, who returned to Lyons, he marched upon Chambery, which immediately capitulated; and thence he proceeded to possess himself of the citadels of Conflans and Charbonnieres, which had hitherto been deemed impregnable. M. de Savoie, who had confided in the strength of his fortresses of Montmelian and Bourg, and who had continued to affect the most perfect indifference to the approach of the French troops, now became seriously alarmed, and made instant preparations to relieve the Marquis de Brandis, the governor of the former fortress, for which purpose he applied to Spain for assistance. This was, however, refused; and both places fell into the hands of the French monarch, who then successively took Chablais and Faussigny; after which he sat down before the fortress of St. Catherine, which the Savoyards had erected to overawe the Genevese.[96]

During the siege of Fort St. Catherine, intelligence reached the King of the arrival of the young Queen at Marseilles; and meanwhile the gratification of the Pope at an alliance so flattering to his pride had been of essential benefit to the French interest, as he had, in consequence, made no demonstration in favour of the Duke of Savoy, although it was not entirely without anxiety that he had seen the army of Henry approach his own dominions; but, satisfied that at such a conjuncture the French monarch would attempt no aggressive measures against Italy, he had consented to remain passive.

Madame de Verneuil was no sooner apprised of the landing of Marie de Medicis than, after having vehemently reproached the King for a haste which she designated as insulting to herself, she made instant preparations for her return to Paris, resolutely refusing to assist at the ceremonious reception of the new Queen; nor could the expostulations of Henry, even accompanied, as they were, by the most profuse proofs of his continued affection, induce her to rescind her determination. To every representation of the monarch she replied by reminding him that out of all the high nobles of his Court, he had seen fit to select the Duc de Bellegarde as the bearer of his marriage-procuration to the Grand Duke of Florence—thus indemnifying him to the utmost of his power for the mortification to which he had been subjected by the royal refusal to permit him to act personally as his proxy; while she assured him that she was not blind to the fact that this selection was meant as an additional affront to herself, in order to avenge the preposterous notion which his Majesty had adopted, that, after having previously paid his court to the Duchesse de Beaufort during her period of power, the Duke had since transferred his affections to the Marquise de Verneuil.

Under all circumstances, this accusation was most unfortunate and ill-judged, and should in itself have sufficed to open the eyes of the monarch, who had, assuredly, had sufficient experience in female tactics to be quite aware that where a woman is compelled mentally to condemn herself, she is the most anxious to transfer her fault to others, and to blame where she is conscious of being open to censure. Madame de Verneuil had not, however, in this instance at all miscalculated the extent of her influence over the royal mind; as, instead of resenting an impertinence which was well fitted to arouse his indignation, Henry weakly condescended to justify himself, and by this unmanly concession laid the foundation of all his subsequent domestic discomfort.

Madame de Verneuil returned to Paris, surrounded by adulation and splendour, and the King was left at liberty to bestow some portion of his thoughts upon his expected bride. It is probable, indeed, that the portrait of Marie presented to him by the Grand Duchess had excited his curiosity and flattered his self-love; for it was more than sufficiently attractive to command the attention of a monarch even less susceptible to female beauty than himself. Marie was still in the very bloom of life, having only just attained her twenty-fourth year; nor could the King have forgotten that when, some time previously, her portrait had been forwarded to the French Court together with that of the Spanish Infanta, Gabrielle d'Estrees, then in the full splendour of her own surpassing loveliness, had exclaimed as she examined them: "I should fear nothing from the Spaniard, but the Florentine is dangerous." From whatever impulse he might act, however, it is certain that after the departure of the favourite, Henry publicly expressed his perfect satisfaction with the marriage which he had been induced to contract,[97] and lost no time in issuing his commands for the reception of his expected bride.

The Duc de Bellegarde, Grand Equerry of France, had reached Livorno on the 20th of September, accompanied by forty French nobles, all alike eager, by the magnificence of their appearance and the chivalry of their deportment, to uphold the honour of their royal master. Seven days subsequently, he entered Florence, where he delivered his credentials to the Grand Duke, having been previously joined by Antonio de Medicis with a great train of Florentine cavaliers who had been sent to meet him; and the same evening he had an interview with his new sovereign, to whom he presented the letters with which he had been entrusted by the King.[98]

On the 4th of October, the Cardinal Aldobrandini, the nephew and legate of the Pope, who had already been preceded by the Duke of Mantua and the Venetian Ambassador, arrived in his turn at Florence, in order to perform the ceremony of the royal marriage. His Eminence was received at the gate of the city by the Grand Duke in person, and made his entry on horseback under a canopy supported by eight young Florentine nobles, preceded by all the ecclesiastical and secular bodies; while immediately behind him followed sixteen prelates, and fifty gentlemen of the first families in the duchy bearing halberds. On reaching the church, the Cardinal dismounted, and thence, after a brief prayer, he proceeded to the ducal palace. At the conclusion of the magnificent repast which awaited him, the legate, in the presence of his royal host, of the Dukes of Mantua and Bracciano, the Princes Juan and Antonio de Medicis, and the Sieur de Bellegarde, announced to the young Queen the entire satisfaction of the Sovereign-Pontiff at the union upon which he was about to pronounce a blessing: to which assurance she replied with grace and dignity.

On the morrow a high mass was celebrated by the Cardinal in the presence of the whole Court; and during its solemnization he was seated under a canopy of cloth of gold at the right-hand side of the altar, where a chair had been prepared for him upon a platform raised three steps above the floor. He had no sooner taken his place, than the Duc de Bellegarde, approaching the Princess (who occupied a similar seat of honour, together with her uncle, at the opposite side of the shrine), led her to the right hand of the legate; the Grand Duke at the same time placing himself upon his left, and presenting to his Eminence the procuration by which he was authorized to espouse his niece in the name of the King. The document was then transferred to two of the attendant prelates, by whom it was read aloud; and subsequently the authority given by the Pope for the solemnization of the marriage was, in like manner, made public. The remainder of the nuptial service was then performed amid perpetual salvos of artillery. In the evening a splendid ball took place at the palace, followed by a banquet, at which the new Queen occupied the upper seat, having on her right the legate of his Holiness, the Duke of Mantua, and the Grand Duke her uncle, who, in homage to her superior rank, ceded to her the place of honour; and on her left, the Duchesses of Mantua, Tuscany, and Bracciano; the Duke of Bracciano acting as equerry, and Don Juan, the brother of the Grand Duke, as cup-bearer.

The four following days were passed in a succession of festivities: hunting-parties, jousts, tiltings at the ring, racing, and every other description of manly sport occupying the hours of daylight, while the nights were devoted to balls and ballets, in which the Florentine nobility vied with their foreign visitors in every species of profusion and magnificence. Among other amusements, a comedy in five acts was represented, on which the outlay was stated to have amounted to the enormous sum of sixty thousand crowns.

At the close of the Court festivals, the Cardinal Aldobrandini took his leave of the distinguished party, and proceeded to Chambery; but the Queen lingered with her family until the 13th of the month, upon which day, accompanied by the Grand-Duchess her aunt, the Duchess of Mantua her sister, her brother Don Antonio, the Duke of Bracciano, and the French Ambassador, she set forth upon her journey to her new kingdom.[99]

Without being strictly beautiful, Marie de Medicis possessed a person at once pleasing and dignified. All the pride of her Italian blood flashed from her large dark eye, while the consciousness of her exalted rank lent a majesty to her deportment which occasionally, however, in moments of irritation, degenerated into haughtiness. Her intellect was quick and cultivated, but she was deficient alike in depth of judgment and in strength of character. Amiable, and even submissive in her intercourse with her favourites, she was vindictive and tyrannical towards those who fell under the ban of her displeasure; and with all the unscrupulous love of intrigue common to her race, she was nevertheless unguarded in her confidences, unstable in her purposes, and short-sighted in her policy. In temper she was hot, impatient, and irascible; in temperament, jealous and exacting; while her vanity and love of power perpetually made her the tool of those who sought to profit by her defects.

It is probable that throughout the whole of Europe no princess could have been selected less constituted to make the happiness of a sovereign who, like Henri IV, had not scrupled to avow to his minister that he dreaded domestic dissension far more than foreign warfare; but who at the same time did not hesitate, by his own irregularities, to arouse all the worst passions in the bosom of an outraged wife.

On the 17th of October the royal bride reached Livorno, where she made her entry in great pomp, and was received with the most enthusiastic acclamations; and on the following day she embarked in the state-galley of the Grand-Duke, one of the most magnificent vessels which had ever floated upon the blue waters of the Mediterranean. Seventy feet in length, it was impelled by fifty-four oars, and was richly gilded from stem to stern; the borders of the poop being inlaid with a profusion of lapis-lazuli, mother-of-pearl, ivory, and ebony. It was, moreover, ornamented by twenty large circles of iron interlaced, and studded with topaz, emeralds, pearls, and other precious stones; while the splendour of the interior perfectly corresponded with this gorgeous framework. In the principal cabin, which was hung and carpeted with cloth of gold, a seat of state had been arranged for the Queen, opposite to which were suspended the shields of France and of the house of Medicis side by side; the fleurs-de-lis of the former being composed of large diamonds, and the device of the latter represented by five immense rubies and a sapphire, with an enormous pearl above, and a fine emerald in the centre.[100] This fairy vessel was followed by five other galleys furnished by the Pope, and six appertaining to the Grand Duke; and thus escorted Marie de Medicis reached Malta, where she was joined by another fleet which awaited her off that island; but, despite all this magnificence, the voyage of the Queen was anything but propitious, for after arriving at Esperies, where the authorities of Genoa profferred to her, with great respect, the attendance of their own flotilla, she had no sooner reached Portofino than she was compelled to anchor for several days from stress of weather. Unaccustomed as she was, however, to this mode of travelling, the high-spirited young Queen resisted all the entreaties of those about her, who were anxious that she should land until the wind had moderated, simply remarking that the King had given no directions to that effect;[101] and retaining, amid all the dismay and discomfort by which she was surrounded, not only her self-command, but even her cheerfulness.[102]

Meanwhile, Henry had no sooner ascertained the approach of his royal bride, than he forthwith despatched to welcome her, the Constable, the Chancellor, and the Dues de Nemours, de Ventadour, and de Guise; and these princes were followed on the ensuing day by the Cardinals de Joyeuse, de Gondy, and de Sourdis; after which he intimated his pleasure to all the several princesses and great ladies of the Court who were then sojourning at Grenoble in order to be near the royal army, that they should immediately set forth to pay their respects to their new sovereign, and remain in attendance upon her person until her entry into Paris; a command which was so literally obeyed, that three days afterwards the city was utterly stripped of the aspect of gaiety and splendour which had rendered it for a time an epitome of the capital itself.

On the 28th of October the Queen once more put to sea, and two days subsequently she entered the port of Toulon, where she landed under a canopy of cloth of gold, with her fine hair flowing over her shoulders.[103] There she remained for two days, in order to recover from the effects of her voyage; after which she re-embarked and proceeded to Marseilles, where she arrived on the evening of Friday the 3d of November. A gallery had been constructed from the port to the grand entrance of the palace in which apartments had been prepared for her; and on stepping from her galley, she was welcomed by the Chancellor,[104] who announced to her the orders that he had received from the King relative to her reception, and presented to her Majesty the Connetable—Duc de Montmorency,[105] and the Ducs de Nemours[106] and de Ventadour.[107] The consuls and citizens then tendered to her upon their knees the keys of the city in gold, linked together by a chain of the same precious metal; after which ceremony, the young Queen was conducted to the palace under a rich canopy, preceded by the Constable, surrounded by the Cardinals and prelates who had been sent to welcome her, and followed by the wife of the Chancellor, and the other great ladies of the Court. So long a delay having occurred between her betrothal and her marriage, the Princess had been enabled to render herself mistress of the language of her new country; and the satisfaction of the courtiers was consequently undisguised when she offered her acknowledgments for the courtesy of her reception in their own tongue; a gratification which was enhanced by the fact that Marie had made no effort to assimilate her costume to that of the French Court, but appeared in a robe of cloth of gold on a blue ground, fashioned in the Italian taste, and with her fine fair hair simply braided and utterly destitute of powder;[108] a circumstance which had already sufficed to awaken the jealousy of the French princesses.

On the following day the Queen held a reception in the great hall of the palace, and graciously listened, surrounded by her august relatives, to the eloquent and celebrated harangue of M. du Vair,[109] the president of the Parliament of Provence; to which she had no sooner replied than she hastened to examine from the balcony a sumptuous state-carriage presented to her by the King, and then retired to her own apartments, attended by her personal suite. Of the royal vehicle in question Cayet gives a minute description, which we transcribe as affording an accurate idea of the taste displayed in that age in the decoration of coaches: "It was," he says, "covered with brown velvet and trimmed with silver tinsel on the outside; and within it was lined with carnation-coloured velvet, embroidered with gold and silver. The curtains were of carnation damask, and it was drawn by four gray horses." [110] These royal conveyances were, however, far less convenient than showy, being cumbrous and ungraceful in form, rudely suspended upon leathern straps, and devoid of windows, the use of glass not becoming known until the succeeding reign.

On the morrow during her toilette the Queen received the principal ladies of the city, who had the honour of accompanying her to the temporary chapel which adjoined the principal saloon, where a high mass was performed with all the magnificent accessories of which it was susceptible; the numerous prelates and high dignitaries of the Church then assembled at Marseilles assisting at its celebration. The subsequent days were spent in courtly festivities and a survey of the noble city, where the ponderous and gilded coach of the royal bride was followed by the wondering acclamations of the dazzled and delighted populace, probably little less dazzled and delighted than herself; for Marie de Medicis, young and ambitious, could not but be forcibly struck by the contrast of her present splendour with the comparative obscurity of the Court to which she had been previously habituated.

On the 16th of the month, however, she experienced her first trial, in a separation from the Grand Duchess her aunt, and the Duchess of Mantua her sister, who then took their leave, and returned to Florence in the galleys which were still awaiting them; and they had no sooner left the port than the Queen, followed by the brilliant train by which she had been surrounded since her arrival in France, proceeded to Aix, where she remained two days; and on the morning of the third she made her entry into Avignon escorted by two thousand horsemen, who met her before she reached the city, and officiated as a guard of honour. Every street through which she passed was richly decorated; tapestry and velvet hangings were suspended from the windows, and draped the balconies; triumphal arches and platforms, splendidly decorated and covered with devices and emblems appropriate to the occasion, were to be seen on all sides; and finally, in the great square of the city, her progress was arrested by a stately procession of ecclesiastics, in whose name she was harangued by Francois Suares;[111] who having in the course of his address expressed his ardent hope that before the anniversary of her entry into Avignon she might give a Dauphin to France, she momentarily interrupted by exclaiming energetically: "I will pray to God to grant me that grace!" [112]

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