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The Life of Marie de Medicis, Vol. 1 (of 3)
by Julia Pardoe
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On the 13th of the month M. de Rohan[291] was married at Ablon[292] to Marguerite de Bethune, the daughter of the Duc de Sully, whom Henry had previously determined to bestow upon the Comte de Laval,[293] and not only did he confer the honour of his presence upon the well-dowered bride, but he also signed her marriage contract and presented to her ten thousand crowns for the purchase of her trousseau, with a similar sum to her bridegroom to defray the expenses of the wedding-feast. A singular ceremony followed upon the nuptial blessing, for M. de Rohan had no sooner led his newly-made wife from the altar than his ducal coronet was placed upon his brow, his ducal mantle flung upon his shoulders, and in this pompous costume he was, at the close of the banquet, escorted to Paris by the princes and nobles who had been the guests of M. de Sully.

Seldom had the King evinced more gaiety of heart than at this particular period, or appeared to derive greater amusement from the gossipry of the Court and the gallantries of the courtiers; and he no sooner ascertained that Mademoiselle d'Entragues had become the mistress of Bassompierre than he said laughingly to the Duc de Guise: "D'Entragues despises us all in her idolatry of Bassompierre. I have good grounds for what I state."

"Well, Sire," was the reply, "you can be at no loss to revenge the affront; while for myself I know of no means so fitting as those of knight-errantry, and I am consequently ready to break three lances with him this afternoon at any hour and place which your Majesty may be pleased to ordain."

The preparations for this combat are so graphically described by Bassompierre himself, and so characteristic of the manners of the time, that we shall offer no apology for giving them in his own words.

"The King acceded to our wishes, as such encounters were by no means unusual, and told us that the tilting should take place in the great court of the Louvre, which he would cause to be covered with sand. M. de Guise selected as his seconds his brother the Prince de Joinville and M. de Thermes;[294] while I chose M. de Saint-Luc[295] and the Comte de Sault.[296] We all six dressed and armed ourselves at the house of Saint-Luc, and as we had armour and liveries ready for every occasion, my party wore silver-mail, with plumes of red and white, as were our silk stockings; while M. de Guise and his troop, on account of the imprisonment of Madame de Verneuil, of whom he was secretly the lover, were dressed and armed in black and gold. In this equipage we arrived at the Louvre, myself and my friends being the first upon the ground." [297]

Henry, with his whole Court, both male and female, was present on the occasion, and the lists were placed immediately beneath the windows of the Queen's apartments; but the diversion was not fated to be of long duration, for at the first encounter the lance of M. de Guise entered the body of his antagonist and inflicted so formidable a wound that he was carried from the spot and laid upon the bed of the Duc de Vendome, apparently in a dying state. After his hurt had been dressed, the Queen sent her sedan chair to convey him to his residence.

Although Bassompierre, in the preceding column, assures his readers that "such encounters were by no means unusual," he goes on to state that directly he fell the King not only forbade the continuance of the tourney, but would never permit another to take place, and that this was the only one which had been held in France for the preceding century.[298]

"No one can imagine," says the wounded hero in continuation, "the multitude of visits that I received, especially from the ladies. All the Princesses came to see me, and the Queen on three occasions sent her maids of honour, who were brought to me by Mademoiselle de Guise, and stayed during the whole afternoon."

These courtly diversions were abruptly terminated by the intelligence which reached Paris of the death, on the 3rd of March, of Pope Clement VIII.[299] The piety of this distinguished Pontiff, and the eminent services which he had rendered to the French King, caused his loss to be deeply felt by Henry; but when, on the 1st day of April, Alessandro de Medicis, the cousin of the Queen, was unanimously elected as his successor under the title of Leo XI, nothing could exceed the joy which was manifested throughout the country. Paris was illuminated, bonfires were lighted on the surrounding heights, and salvos of artillery rang from the dark walls of the Bastille. This demonstration proved, however, to be premature, as the next courier who arrived in the French capital from Rome brought the fatal tidings of his death. On the day succeeding his elevation he had made his solemn entry into St. Peter's; on Easter Sunday the triple tiara was placed upon his brow, and the public procession to St. John de Lateran took place on the 17th; but on returning from this ceremony the new Pontiff complained of indisposition, and on the 27th he breathed his last; and was in his turn succeeded, on the Day of Pentecost (29th of May), by Paul V.[300]

About this time the King, wearied of the perpetual coldness of Madame de Verneuil, which not even his excessive clemency had sufficed to overcome, made a last attempt to compel her gratitude by forwarding letters under the great seal, authorizing the Comte d'Entragues to retire to his estate of Marcoussis, and re-establishing both himself and his son-in-law in all their wealth and honours, save the posts which they had held under the crown, and their respective governments. D'Auvergne, however, was still a prisoner in the Bastille, where, after lashing himself into fury for a few months, he adopted the more prudent and manly alternative of study, and thus contrived to educe enjoyment even from his privations.

Yet still the haughty spirit of the Marquise scorned to yield. She was indeed living in her own house, the gift of the monarch against whom she exhibited this firm and calm defiance, and surrounded by luxuries, the whole of which she owed to his uncalculating generosity; but she could not, and would not, forget that she was, nevertheless, an exile from the Court, and a prisoner within the boundary of her estate, while the Queen, whom she had affected to despise, was triumphing in her disgrace. Nor was it until the month of September, when Henry, who was pining for her return, finally declared that no proof of culpability having been brought against her, she must be forthwith duly and fully acquitted of the crime with which she had been charged, that the icy barrier was at last broken down, and the haughty Marquise condescended to acknowledge herself indebted to her sovereign. The King did not satisfy himself with this mere declaration, though he had caused it to be legally registered by the Parliament; but, fearful lest some further revelations might be made, by which she might become once more involved, he moreover strictly forbade his Attorney-general to take any new steps whatever relating to the conspiracy, or tending further to incriminate any of its presumed members.[301]

The jealousy which existed between the two houses of Bourbon and Lorraine, and which Henry was anxious if possible to terminate, coupled perhaps with no small feeling of wounded vanity, determined him to bestow the hand of Louise Marguerite de Lorraine, Demoiselle de Guise (who, since she had been in the household of the Queen, had lent a less willing ear than formerly to his renewed gallantries), upon Francois, Prince de Conti; and accordingly the marriage was celebrated with great pomp in the month of July, in the presence of their Majesties and the whole Court. Madame de Conti herself asserts that the Queen first suggested this union, and did everything in her power to effect it;[302] for which it is highly probable that Marie had a double motive, as the antecedents of Mademoiselle de Guise might well excuse her jealousy.

While besieging Paris, and before his public liaison with Gabrielle d'Estrees, Henry had sent to demand the portrait of Mademoiselle de Guise, giving her reason to believe that so soon as the war should be terminated he was desirous of making her his wife; a prospect which, as she very naively acknowledges, led her to despise the addresses of the Comte de Giury,[303] who was her declared suitor, as well as those of the other nobles who sought her favour. One day, however, during a brief truce of six hours, the Duchesse de Guise and herself, accompanied by several other ladies, having ascended the rampart to converse with such of their friends as were in the besieging army, all the young gallants crowded to the foot of the walls to pay their respects to the fair being whose presence offered so graceful a contrast to the objects by which they were more immediately surrounded; and among the rest came Roger, Duc de Bellegarde, at that period the handsomest man in France.

It was the first occasion upon which Mademoiselle de Guise and the Duke had met; and we have the authority of the lady for stating that the attraction was mutual. M. de Bellegarde had long been the avowed lover of la belle Gabrielle; but, inconstant as the fair D'Estrees herself, he at once surrendered his previously-occupied heart to this new goddess. His prior attachment was not, however, the only reason which should have deterred Mademoiselle de Guise from thus suffering her fancy to overcome her better feelings, as M. de Bellegarde was accused of having been accessory to the assassination of her father; but neither of these considerations appears to have had any weight with the young Princess. According to her own version of the circumstance, Gabrielle conceived so violent a jealousy that the Duke was compelled to condescend to every imaginable subterfuge in order to conceal the truth; while the King, who soon became aware of the secret intelligence which subsisted between the lovers, ceased to feel any inclination to raise Mademoiselle de Guise to the throne of France; although, as we have seen, he was by no means insensible either to the charm of her wit or the attraction of her beauty.

In order to follow up his great design of pacification, Henry, after having re-established Philip of Nassau in his principality of Orange, also effected his marriage with Eleonore de Bourbon,[304] by which union he secured another desirable ally.[305]

During the development of the late conspiracy the monarch had been indebted for much of the information which he had received relative to the intrigues of the Comte d'Auvergne to the intelligence afforded by the ex-Queen Marguerite, who, having come into possession of many facts which could not otherwise have been known to the King, had assiduously imparted to him every circumstance that she conceived to be of importance; a service for which he had not failed to express his gratitude. That Marguerite had, however, been in no small degree actuated in this matter by feelings of self-interest, there can be no doubt, D'Auvergne having long enjoyed the proprietorship of the county from whence he derived his title, and which had been bestowed on him by Henri III, as well as several other estates which that monarch had inherited from his mother, Catherine de Medicis, the said territories having formed a portion of her dowry on her union with Henri II. Marguerite's memories of her brother, as the reader will readily comprehend, were not sufficiently attaching to induce her to submit patiently to such a substitution, as she was aware that, by the marriage contract, the property in question was settled upon the female offspring of Catherine in default of male issue; and her lavish expenditure and errant adventures having exhausted her means, she resolved to exert every effort to establish her claim. She had already upon several occasions solicited permission to return to the French capital; and, although it had never been distinctly refused, it was so coldly conceded that her pride had hitherto prevented her from availing herself of an indulgence thus reluctantly accorded; but aware at the present moment that she could so materially serve the King as to ensure a more gracious reception than she might previously have anticipated, she resolved to seize the opportunity; and accordingly, greatly to the surprise, not only of the whole Court, but of the monarch himself, she arrived in Paris without having intimated her intention, lest the permission should be revoked.

For five-and-twenty years the last survivor of the illustrious house of Valois had existed in obscurity and poverty among the mountains and precipices of the inhospitable province of Auvergne, apparently forgetting for a time that world by which she had been so readily forgotten; but Marguerite began at length to yearn for a restoration of her privileges as a member of the great human family. She could not have chosen a more judicious moment in which to hazard so extreme a step; as in addition to the respect which, despite all her vices, she could still command as the descendant of a long line of sovereigns, she had latterly established many claims upon the gratitude of the King. It was impossible for him not to feel, and that deeply, the generous self-abnegation with which she had lent herself to the dissolution of their ill-omened marriage, when not only his own happiness, but that of the whole nation, required the sacrifice; nor could he fail to remember that while those upon whom he lavished alike his affection and his treasure, had constantly laboured to embitter his domestic life, and to undermine the dignity of his Queen, the repudiated wife had never once evinced the slightest disposition to withhold from her the deference and respect to which she was entitled.

Thus then, when her near approach to the capital was suddenly announced to him, Henry lost not a moment in hastening, with his royal consort and a brilliant retinue, to receive her before she could reach the gates; and gave orders that the palace of Madrid in the Bois de Boulogne should immediately be prepared in a befitting manner for her residence. Nor was Marie de Medicis less willing than himself to welcome the truant Princess, to whom she was aware that she owed many obligations; and the meeting was consequently a cordial one on both sides. After the usual ceremonies had been observed, Marguerite, abandoning the litter in which she had hitherto travelled, took her place in the state coach beside their Majesties, by whom she was conducted to her appointed abode; nor was it until repeated expressions of regard had been exchanged between the ex-Queen and her successor, that the royal party returned to the Tuileries.

After a sojourn of six weeks in the palace of Madrid, during which time Marguerite not only revealed to the monarch all the details of the Verneuil conspiracy, but also the particulars of another still more serious, as it involved the cession of Marseilles, Toulon, and other cities to the Spaniards, she became wearied of the forest villa, and established herself in the archiepiscopal Hotel de Sens[306]; an arrangement to which the King consented on condition that she should make him two promises, one of which was that she would be more careful of her health, "and not turn night into day, and day into night," as she was accustomed to do; and the other, that she would restrain her liberality, and endeavour to economize. To these requests the Princess cheerfully answered that she would make an effort to obey his Majesty upon the first point, although it would be a privation almost beyond endurance, from the habit in which she had so long indulged of enjoying the sunrise before she retired to rest; but with regard to the other she must decline to give a pledge which she was certain to falsify, no Valois having ever succeeded in such an attempt. It is probable that Henry, from a consciousness of his own peculiar prodigalities, did not feel himself authorized to insist upon a rigid observance of his expressed wish, as although Marguerite had so frankly refused to regulate her expenditure with more prudence, she was nevertheless permitted to remain in the asylum which she had chosen; and this she continued to do until the 5th of April 1606, when she was driven from it by a tragedy that rendered it hateful to her.

Slender as was her retinue, it unfortunately included a young favourite named Saint-Julien,[307] who, from some private pique, had induced her to discharge from her service two attendants who had from their earliest youth been members of her household, the one as page, and the other as maid of honour; and who had ultimately married with her consent and approbation, but upon being thus cast off, had found themselves ruined, no noble house being willing to receive the dismissed attendants of the dishonoured Queen. Of this union a son had been born, possessed, however, of less patience and self-control than his unhappy parents, who, after having clung to Marguerite through good and evil fortune, now found themselves abandoned to all the miseries of poverty and neglect. This youth, called by L'Etoile Vermond, and by Bassompierre Charmond, made his way to Paris as best he might, and arrived in the capital after Marguerite had taken up her residence as already stated in the Faubourg St. Antoine. There can be no doubt that the utter destitution of his parents had made him desperate, for he could not rationally indulge the slightest hope of impunity; suffice it, that as the Princess was alighting from her coach on her return from attending mass at the abbey of the Celestines, between mid-day and one o'clock on the 5th of April, while her favourite stood beside the steps to assist her to descend, the unhappy Vermond shot him through the head, and then, turning his horse towards the gate of St. Denis, endeavoured to make his escape. He was, however, too ill-mounted to succeed in this attempt, the carriage of the ex-Queen having been followed by many of the nobles who were anxious to propitiate the favour of the King by so easy a display of respect to the dethroned Marguerite; and ere he reached the barrier the wretched young man found himself a prisoner.

The body of his victim had, meanwhile, been conveyed to an apartment on the ground floor of the hotel, where on his arrival he was immediately confronted with it; but no sign of remorse or regret was visible as he gazed upon the corpse. "Turn it over," he said huskily, after he had gazed for awhile upon the glazed eyes and the parted lips. "Let me see if he be really dead." His request was complied with; and as he became convinced that life had indeed departed from the already stiffening form, he exclaimed joyfully: "It is well—I have not failed—my task is accomplished. Had it been otherwise I could yet have repaired the error."

When this scene was reported to Marguerite, who, absorbed in the most passionate grief, had retired to her appartment, she vowed that she would not touch food until she had vengeance on the murderer; and she kept her word, as she persisted in her resolution till, on the third day after he had committed the crime, the unhappy young man was decapitated in front of the house, and almost upon the very spot still reeking with the blood of his victim. But the nerves of the ex-Queen could endure no further tension; and on the morrow she removed to a new residence in the Faubourg St. Germain, where she was shortly afterwards visited by Bassompierre, who was charged with the condolences of the King on her late loss.[308]

This fact alone tends more fully to develop the manners and morals (?) of the age than a thousand comments; and thus we have considered it our duty to place it upon record.

Meanwhile M. de Saint-Julien was far from having been the only favourite of the profligate Marguerite, who divided her time between devotional exercises and the indulgence of those guilty pleasures to which she was so unhappily addicted; but while the citizens were not slow to remark her excesses, she gained the love of the poor by a profuse alms-giving, and enjoyed a perfect impunity of action from the real or feigned ignorance of the King relative to the private arrangements of her household. She was, moreover, the avowed patroness of men of letters, by whom her table was constantly surrounded; and in whose society she took so much delight that she acquired, by this constant intercourse with the most learned individuals of the capital, a facility not only of expression, but also of composition, very remarkable in one of her sex at that period.[309] Carefully avoiding all political intrigue, she made no distinction of persons beyond that due to their rank; and thus, while her intercourse with the Queen was marked by an affectionate respect peculiarly gratifying to its object, she was no less urbane and condescending to the Marquise de Verneuil; who had, as may have been anticipated, already regained all her former influence over the mind of the monarch, his passion even appearing to have derived new strength from their temporary estrangement.

The peculiar situation of the Queen, however, who was about once more to become a mother, and whose tranquillity of mind he feared to disturb at such a moment, rendered the monarch unusually anxious to conceal this fact; and it was consequently not until some weeks afterwards that Marie de Medicis was apprised of the new triumph of her rival.

The month of December accordingly passed away without the domestic discord which must have arisen had the Queen been less happily ignorant of her real position; but it was nevertheless fated to be an eventful one. The death of M. de la Riviere, the King's body-surgeon, a loss which was severely felt by Henry, was succeeded by the execution of M. de Merargues[310], whose conspiracy to deliver up Marseilles to the Spaniards was revealed to the monarch by Marguerite; and who, tried and convicted of lese-majeste, was decapitated in the Place de Greve, his body quartered and exposed at the four gates of the capital, and his head carried to Marseilles, and stuck upon a pike over the principal entrance to the city; while, on the very day of his execution, as the King was returning from a hunt and riding slowly across the Pont Neuf, at about five in the afternoon, a man suddenly sprang up behind him and threw him backwards upon his horse, attempting at the same time to plunge a dagger which he held into the body of his Majesty. Fortunately, however, Henry was so closely muffled in a thick cloak that before the assassin could effect his purpose the attendants were enabled to seize him and liberate their royal master, who was perfectly uninjured. The consternation was nevertheless universal; nor was it lessened by the calmness with which, when interrogated, the assassin declared that his intention had been to take the life of the sovereign. It was soon discovered, however, by the incoherency of his language that he was a maniac; and although many of the nobles urged that he should be put to death as an example to others, the King resolutely resisted their advice, declaring that the man's family, who had long been aware of his infirmity, were more to blame than himself; and commanding that he should be placed in security, and thus rendered unable to repeat any act of violence. He was accordingly conveyed to prison, where he shortly afterwards died.

At this period, whether it were that the King hoped, by occupying her attention with subjects of more moment, to be enabled to pursue his liaison with Madame de Verneuil with less difficulty, or that his advancing age rendered him in reality anxious to initiate her into the mysteries of government, it is certain that he endeavoured to induce the Queen to take more interest than she had hitherto done in questions of national importance; and revealed to her many state secrets, not one of which, as he afterwards declared to Sully, did she ever communicate, even to her most confidential friends. But Marie de Medicis was far from evincing the delight which he had anticipated at his avowed wish that she should share with him in the hopes and disappointments of royalty; her ambition had not then been thoroughly awakened; she still felt as a wife and as a woman rather than as a Queen; and an insolence from Madame de Verneuil occupied her feelings more nearly than a threatened conspiracy. So great, indeed, was her distaste to the new character in which she was summoned to appear, that when the King occasionally addressed her with a gay smile as Madame la Regente, a cloud invariably gathered upon her brow. Upon one occasion, when the royal couple were walking in the park at Fontainebleau, attended by all the Court, and that the monarch, who led the Dauphin by the hand, vainly endeavoured to induce him to jump across a little stream which ran beside their path, Henry became so enraged by his cowardice and obstinacy that he raised him in his arms to dip him into the pigmy current, a punishment which was, however, averted by the entreaties of his mother; and the King reluctantly consented that he should suffer nothing more than the mortification of being compelled to exchange her care for that of his governess, Madame de Montglat. As the child was led away the King sighed audibly, but in a few seconds he resumed the conversation which had been thus unpleasantly interrupted, and once more he addressed the Queen as Madame la Regente.

"I entreat of you, Sire, not to call me by that name," said Marie; "it is full of associations which cannot fail to be painful to me."



The King looked earnestly and even sadly upon her for a moment ere he replied, and then it was in a tone as grave as that in which she uttered her expostulation. "You are right," he said, "quite right not to wish to survive me, for the close of my life will be the commencement of your own troubles. You have occasionally shed tears when I have flogged your son, but one day you will weep still more bitterly either over him or yourself. My favourites have often excited your displeasure, but you will find yourself some time hence more ill-used by those who obtain an influence over the actions of Louis. Of one thing I can assure you, and that is, knowing your temper so well as I do, and foreseeing that which his will prove in after years—you, Madame, self-opinionated, not to say headstrong, and he obstinate—you will assuredly break more than one lance together." [311]

Poor Marie! She was little aware at that moment how soon so mournful a prophecy was to become a still more mournful reality.

FOOTNOTES:

[284] A very low wooden stool upon which accused persons were formerly seated during their trial; an arrangement deemed so great a degradation by persons of condition that many attainted nobles indignantly appealed against it.

[285] L'Etoile, vol. iii. p. 256.

[286] Achille de Harlay was the representative of a distinguished family, many of whose members were celebrated during four centuries both as magistrates and ecclesiastics. He was born on the 7th of May 1536, and was the son of Christophe de Harlay, President de Mortier of the Parliament of Paris, one of the most learned and upright magistrates of his time. Achille was a parliamentary councillor at the age of twenty-two years, president of the Parliament of Paris at thirty-six, and succeeded his father-in-law, Christophe de Thou, as first president in 1582. During the time of the League under Henri III he made to the Duc de Guise the celebrated answer which covered him with glory and paralyzed the strength of the malcontents: "My soul belongs to my God and my heart to my King, although my body is in the power of rebels." He was imprisoned for a time by the chiefs of the League, after which he returned to the service of the King. He resigned his office in favour of Nicolas de Verdun, and died on the 23rd of October 1616 at the age of eighty years.

[287] Louis Servin distinguished himself from an early age by his extraordinary learning and his extreme attachment to his sovereign. He was indebted for the rank of King's Advocate to the Cardinal de Vendome, and acquitted himself so admirably of the duties of his office as to justify the confidence of his patron.

[288] L'Etoile, vol. iii. pp. 255-257. Mezeray, vol. x. pp. 277-279. Daniel, vol. vii. p. 456.

[289] Marie de Balzac d'Entragues, in pursuit of whom the King incurred the risk of assassination.

[290] Richer, Mercure Francais, Paris, 1611, year 1605, pp. 9-11.

[291] Henri, Duc de Rohan, Prince de Leon, was the eldest son of Rene, second Vicomte de Rohan, and was born at Blein, in Brittany, in 1579. He made his first campaign under Henri IV, by whom he had been adopted, and who had declared his intention of making him his successor on the French throne should Marie de Medicis fail to give him a son. Henry created him duke and peer in 1603, and Colonel-general of the Swiss Guards in 1605; but after the death of the King he entered into a struggle with the Court, declared himself the head of the Protestant party, and sustained three campaigns against Louis XIII, the last of which was terminated by his compelling that monarch (in 1629) to sign for the second time a confirmation and re-establishment of the Edict of Nantes. He next entered into a negotiation with the Porte for the purchase of the island of Cyprus, and subsequently became Generalissimo of the Venetians against the Imperialists, then General of the Grisons, and finally, displeased and disgusted with the French Court, he withdrew to the territories of the Duke of Saxe Weimar, in whose service he was killed in 1638. He left an only child, Marguerite, who married Henri de Chabot, and whose descendants took the name of Rohan-Chabot.

[292] Ablon was a small village upon the Seine, distant about three leagues from the capital, where the Protestants celebrated their worship before they built the church at Charenton, which was subsequently destroyed.

[293] Guy, Comte de Laval, was one of the richest and most accomplished noblemen of his time. He not only inherited all the wealth of his father, but also that of his grandfather Francois de Coligny, a fact which, after his death, caused a lawsuit between the family of La Tremouille and the Duc d'Elboeuf. His qualities, both physical and mental, were worthy of his extraordinary fortune, and his devotion to literature and the fine arts was unwearied. M. de Laval had been reared in the Protestant faith, but to the great regret of the reformed party, who had hoped to find in him as zealous a defender as they had found in his ancestors, he embraced the Romish religion. His valour as a soldier was as remarkable as his attainments, and he had scarcely reached his twentieth year when he asked and obtained from the King the royal permission to serve under the Archduke Matthias in Hungary against the Turks. Accompanied by fifteen or sixteen gentlemen, and attended by a retinue befitting his rank and wealth, he eminently distinguished himself by the manner in which he effected the retreat after the siege of Strigonia; but his first triumph was fated to be his last, as during the struggle he received a gunshot wound of which he died a few days subsequently, deeply regretted by the Prince in whose cause he had fallen and by the troops, to whom he had already endeared himself by his noble qualities.

[294] Cesar Auguste de St. Larry, Baron de Thermes, was the son of Jean de St. Larry and of Anne de Villemur, and was the younger brother of Roger de St. Larry, Duc de Bellegarde, Grand Equerry of France. He was first created Knight of Malta and Grand Prior of Auvergne, and subsequently, on the dismissal of the Duc de Bellegarde, Grand Equerry in his stead. Having incurred the displeasure of Marie de Medicis he was compelled to leave the Court, when he proceeded to Holland, where he was warmly welcomed by Prince Maurice, a welcome which was not lessened by the fact of his being accompanied by forty gentlemen. The anger of the Queen having subsided he returned to France, where, as previously stated, he succeeded to the honours of his brother, was made Knight of St. Michael and the Holy Ghost, and died of a wound which he had received at the siege of Clerac in July 1621.

[295] Francois d'Espinay, second of the name, was the son of Francois d'Espinay, Seigneur de Saint-Luc, Knight of St. Michael and of the Holy Ghost, and Grand Master of Artillery, who was killed at the siege of Amiens in 1597. In the preceding year, at the early age of fourteen, the young Saint-Luc had a quarrel with Emmanuel-Monsieur, the son of the Duc de Mayenne, by whom he conceived that he had been insulted, and who, upon his demanding whether the affront were intended as a jest or designed as an insult, replied that he might interpret it as he pleased, inquiring at the same time if he were not aware who he was. "Yes, I know you," was the reply of the high-spirited boy; "you are the son of the Duc de Mayenne, and you are in your turn aware that I am the son of Saint-Luc, a loyal gentleman who has always served his country with fidelity and never borne arms against his lawful sovereign." This quarrel between two mere youths having reached the ears of the King, he forbade the disputants to proceed further; but the young Saint-Luc had thus already, alike by his courage and his ready wit, given ample promise of his future loyalty and prowess.

[296] Guillaume de Sault (or Saulx) was the son of the celebrated Gaspard de Saulx, Marechal de Travannes. He married Chretienne d'Aguirre, the daughter of Michel d'Aguirre, a celebrated jurisconsult of the diocese of Pampeluna, was created Lieutenant-Governor of Burgundy, and died in 1633.

[297] Bassompierre, Mem. p. 43.

[298] Idem.

[299] Ippolito Aldobrandini, subsequently Clement VIII, was a Florentine by birth, who, in the year 1585, was made Grand Penitentiary and Cardinal by Pope Sixtus V. His diplomatic talents caused him to be sent as legate to Poland to arrange the difficulties between Sigismund of Sweden and the Archduke Maximilian, who had both been elected King of Poland by their several partisans. On the death of Innocent IX, Aldobrandini was raised to the pontifical chair (1592), which he occupied during thirteen years.

[300] Camillo Borghese was a native of Rome, whose family were originally from Sienna. Clement VIII called him to a seat in the conclave in 1598. After his elevation to the pontifical chair he quarrelled with the republic of Venice, the result of the difference between the two states being the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Venetian territories. He succeeded in effecting the union of the Nestorians of Chaldea with the Church of Rome, and in appeasing for a time several controversial differences between members of his own communion. Paul V greatly embellished the city of Rome; and also completed the facade of St. Peter's, and the palace of the Quirinal. He died in 1621, at the age of sixty-nine years.

[301] Mezeray, vol. x. p. 280.

[302] Amours du Grand Alcandre, p. 47.

[303] Anne d'Anglure, Seigneur de Giury, who subsequently married Marguerite Hurault, daughter of Philippe Hurault, Comte de Chiverny, Chancellor of France under Henri III and Henri IV.

[304] Eleonore de Bourbon was the daughter of Henri I. de Bourbon, Prince de Conde, who succeeded his father in the command of the Calvinist party, conjointly with the King of Navarre, afterwards Henri IV. This prince raised a body of foreign troops in 1575, and distinguished himself greatly at Coutras in 1587. He died in the following year, having, as was asserted, been poisoned by his wife, Charlotte de la Tremouille, at St-Jean-d'Angely.

[305] Montfaucon, vol. v. p. 418.

[306] This hotel was the property of the Bishop of Bourges, known as M. de Sens, who died in September 1606 at the age of seventy-nine years, and who was interred at Notre-Dame, at his own request, without pomp or ceremony of any description. This prelate had been involved in so many delicate, but withal conspicuous affairs, that he had become the object of very general curiosity and slander. At the commencement of the reign of Henri IV a satire made its appearance, entitled, "Library of Madame de Montpensier, brought to light by the advice of Cornac, and with the consent of the Sieur de Beaulieu, her equerry," in which mention was made of a supposititious work called, "The Art of not Believing in God," by M. de Bourges, in which an attempt was made to convict the prelate of atheism. This book was attributed to the reformed party; while the libel was strengthened by the indignation felt by the Court of Rome at the circumstance of M. de Bourges having taken upon himself to absolve Henri IV without the Papal authority, on his conversion to the Roman Catholic faith. The manner of his death, however, gainsayed the calumny; although so slight had been the respect felt for his sacred office, that the ex-Queen Marguerite had no sooner taken possession of his hotel, than the following placard was found affixed to the entrance-gate:

"Comme Reine, tu devais etre En ta royale maison; Comme ——, c'est bien raison Que tu loge an logis d'un pretre."

[307] Bassompierre calls him Saint-Sulliendat, Mem. p. 46.

[308] L'Etoile, vol. iii. pp. 353, 354. Bassompierre, Mem. p. 46.

[309] Richelieu, La Mere et le Fils, vol. i. p. 326.

[310] Louis de Lagon de Merargues was a nobleman of Provence, who claimed to descend from the Princes of Catalonia or Aragon. His position of procureur-syndic of the province, and the importance of the relatives of his wife, who was closely connected with the Duc de Montpensier, together with the command of two galleys which he held from the King, enabled him at any moment to possess himself of the port; while his office of Viguier, or royal provost, gave him great authority over the citizens.

[311] Richelieu, La Mere et le Fils, vol. i. pp. 19, 20.



CHAPTER VI

1606

New Year's Day at Court—The royal tokens—A singular audience—A proposition—Birth of the Princess Christine—Public festivities—A ballet on horseback—The King resolves to humble the Duc de Bouillon—Arguments of the Queen—Policy of Henry—The Court proceeds to Torcy—Surrender of Bouillon—The sovereigns enter Sedan—Rejoicings of the citizens—State entry into Paris—The High Court of Justice assigns to the ex-Queen Marguerite the county of Auvergne—The "Te Deum"—Marguerite makes a donation of her recovered estates to the Dauphin—Inconsistencies of Marguerite—Jealousy of the Queen of Madame de Moret—Increasing coldness of the King towards that lady—The frail rivals—Princely beacons—-Indignation of the Queen—Narrow escape of the King and Queen—Gratitude of the Queen to her preserver—Insolent pleasantry of the Marquise de Verneuil—A disappointment compensated—Marriage of the Duc de Bar—The King invites the Duchess of Mantua to become sponsor to the Dauphin, and the Duc de Lorraine to the younger Princess—The Mantuan suite—Preparations at Notre-Dame—The plague in Paris—The Court removes to Fontainebleau—The royal christenings—Increase of the plague—Royal disappointments—The Duchesse de Nevers—Discourtesy of the King—Dignity of the Duchess.

The description given by M. de Sully of his interview with their Majesties on the morning of the 1st of January 1606 is so characteristic of the time that we cannot conscientiously pass it over, although the feeling of the present day compels us to exclude many of its details. Early in the forenoon the Duke proceeded to the Louvre to pay his respects to the august couple, and to present the customary offerings; but on reaching the apartment of the King, he was informed by MM. d'Armagnac and l'Oserai, the two valets-de-chambre on duty, that his Majesty was in the chamber of the Queen, who had been seriously indisposed during the night. He consequently proceeded to the ante-room of his royal mistress, and as he found it vacant, advanced to the door of the chamber itself, against which he scratched gently, in order to attract the attention of Caterina Selvaggio or Mademoiselle de la Renouillere, her favourite attendants, and to ascertain the state of her health without awakening her. He had no sooner done so, however, than several voices loudly inquired who was there, and among them the Duke recognized those of Roquelaure, Frontenac, and Beringhen.

Having declared his identity, and been announced to the King, he was immediately summoned in a cheerful voice by Henry himself: "Come in, come in, Sully," cried the monarch; "you will think us very idle until you learn what has kept us in bed so late. My wife has been ill all night; but I will tell you all about it when there are not so many people present, and meanwhile let us see what you have brought for us as New Year's gifts, for I observe that your three secretaries are with you laden each with a velvet bag."

"It is true, Sire," answered the Duke. "I remembered that the last occasion upon which I had seen your Majesties together you were both in excellent spirits, and trusting to find it the case today, when we are all anticipating the birth of a second Prince, I have brought you some offerings which are sure to please you, as they cannot fail to gratify those to whom they are distributed in your name, a distribution which I trust may take place this evening in your presence and that of the Queen."

"Although she says nothing to you," laughed the King, "according to her custom of pretending to be asleep, she is as thoroughly awake as myself, but she is very angry with both of us. However, we will talk of that some other time. And now let us see your presents."

"They are not perhaps, Sire," said the Grand Master, "such as might be expected from the treasurer of a wealthy and powerful monarch; but such as they are, I feel convinced that they will afford more real gratification to those for whom they are intended, and excite more gratitude towards your own person, than all the costly gifts which you lavish upon individuals who, as I well know, only repay your profuse liberality by ingratitude and murmurs."

"I understand you," exclaimed the King; "it is useless to explain yourself further; rather show us what you have brought."

The Duke made a signal to his secretaries to approach the bed. "Here, Sire," he said, "in my despatch-bag, are three purses filled with gold tokens, with a device expressive of the love borne towards your Majesty by your people. One of these I offer to yourself, another to the Queen, and the third to Monseigneur le Dauphin, or rather I ought to say to Mamanga,[312] if her Majesty does not retain it, as she has always done on similar occasions. In the same bag are eight purses of silver tokens with the same device—two for yourself, two for the Queen, and four for La Renouillere, Caterina Selvaggio, and any other of the ladies who sleep in the chamber of her Majesty. The second bag contains twenty-five purses of tokens in silver, to be distributed among Monseigneur le Dauphin, Madame de Montglat, Madame de Drou,[313] Mademoiselle de Piolant,[314] the nurses and other attendants of Monseigneur and his sister, and the waiting-maids of the Queen. In the third bag there are thirty sacks, each containing a hundred crowns in half-franc pieces, coined expressly for the purpose, and so large that they appear to be of twice the value. These are intended for all the attendants of subordinate rank attached to the household of her Majesty and the royal children, according to your orders. I have left, moreover, in my carriage below, in the charge of my people, two great bags, each containing a hundred crowns in twelve sous pieces, making the sum of twelve thousand sous, for division among the poor and sick upon the quays of the river near the Louvre, which are, as I am told, already crowded; and I have in consequence sent twelve citizens upon whom I can rely to distribute the money conscientiously according to the necessities of each applicant. All these poor people, and even the waiting-women of her Majesty, exhibit more delight on receiving these trifling coins, Sire, than you can well believe. They all say that it is not so much for the value of the gift, as because it proves that you remember and regard them; and, moreover, the attendants of the Queen prize them in consequence of their being free to appropriate them as they think fit, while they are compelled to employ their respective salaries according to the instructions which they receive, as they thus have a hundred crowns to expend in any finery for which they may take a fancy."

"And do you bestow all this happiness upon them without being rewarded even by a kiss?" asked Henry gaily.

"Truly, Sire," answered the Duke, "since the day when your Majesty commanded them to recognize their obligation in that manner, I have never found it necessary to remind them of your royal pleasure, for they come voluntarily to tender their acknowledgments according to order; while Madame de Drou, devout as she is, only laughs during the performance of the ceremony."

"Come now, M. le Grand Maitre," persisted the King, "tell me the truth; which do you consider to be the handsomest, and consequently the most welcome among them?"

"On my word, Sire," replied M. de Sully, "that is a question which I am unable to answer, for I have other things to think of besides love and beauty, and I firmly believe that they, each and all, pay as little attention to my handsome nose as I do to theirs. I kiss them as we do relics, when I am making my offering."

Henry laughed heartily. "How say you, gentlemen," he exclaimed, addressing the courtiers who thronged the chamber; "have we not here a prodigal treasurer, who makes such presents as these at the expense of his master, and all for a kiss?"

Of course the royal hilarity found a general and an immediate echo, which had no sooner subsided than the King exclaimed: "And now, gentlemen, to your breakfasts, and leave us to discuss affairs of greater importance."

In a few minutes all had left the room save Sully himself and the two waiting-women of the Queen, and he had no sooner ascertained that such was the case than Henry said affectionately: "And now, sleeper, awake, and do not scold any longer, for I have, on my part, resolved not to think any more of what has passed, particularly at such a time as this. You fancy that Sully blames you whenever we have a difference, but you are quite wrong, as you would be aware could you only know how freely he gives me his opinion on my own faults, and although I am occasionally angry with him, I like him none the less; on the contrary, I believe that if he ceased to love me, he would be more indifferent to all that touches my welfare and honour, as well as the good of my people; for do you see, ma mie, the best-intentioned among us require at times to be supported by the wise advice of faithful and prudent friends, and he is constantly reminding me of the expediency of indulgence towards yourself, and of the necessity of keeping your mind at peace, in order that neither you nor the Prince whom you are about to give to France—for the Duke feels satisfied that it will be a Prince—may suffer from contradiction, or annoyance of any kind."

"I thank M. le Grand Maitre," said the Queen at length, in a voice of great exhaustion; "but it is impossible for me to feel either calm or happy while you persist in preferring the society of persons who are obnoxious to me, to my own. My very dreams are embittered by this consciousness, and doubly so because I have reason to know that while I am their victim, they are false even to yourself and, moreover, detest you in their hearts. You may doubt this," she added with greater energy, "but I appeal to the Duke himself, and he will tell you if this is not the case."

M. de Sully, however, felt no inclination to offer his testimony to the truth of an assertion of this nature—the position involved too great a responsibility to be agreeable even to the experienced statesman himself; and he accordingly, with his accustomed prudence, generalized the subject by declaring that he experienced a heartfelt satisfaction in perceiving that their Majesties had at length yielded to a feeling of mutual confidence, which could not fail to put an end to all their domestic discomfort; adding that if he might presume to offer his advice, he would suggest that should any new subject of difference arise between them, they should immediately refer it to the arbitration of a third person, upon whose probity and attachment they could severally rely, and resolve to leave the whole affair totally in his hands, without aggravating the evil by any personal interference, or even considering themselves aggrieved by the remedy which he might suggest.

He then offered, should they place sufficient confidence in his own judgment and affection, to become himself the arbitrator whom he recommended; and he had no sooner done so than the King eagerly declared himself ready to comply with his advice, and to sign a pledge to that effect, but Marie de Medicis, who was as well aware as her royal consort that the first step adopted by Sully would be the exile of her Italian followers, was less willing to bind herself by such an engagement, and she therefore merely remarked that the proposition had come upon her so suddenly that she must have time to reflect before she thus placed herself entirely in the hands of a third party. She then, as if anxious to terminate the discussion, summoned her women, and the Duke, by no means reluctantly, withdrew.[315]

At this period the King made a journey into Limousin, at the head of a body of troops, in order to overawe the malcontents in that province; and while at Orleans he withdrew the seals from Pomponne de Bellievre, in order to bestow them upon Sillery, the former, however, retaining the empty title of Chief of the Privy Council. The pretext for this substitution was the failing health of the Chancellor, but it was generally attributed to the influence of Madame de Verneuil, in whose fortunes M. de Sillery had always exhibited as lively an interest as he had previously done in those of the Duchesse de Beaufort. Let it, however, have arisen from whatever cause it might, it is certain that the veteran statesman deeply felt the indignity which had been offered to him. Thus Bassompierre asserts that when he shortly afterwards visited M. de Bellievre at Artenay, and that the indignant minister commented with considerable bitterness upon his recent deprivation, he vainly endeavoured to reconcile him to the affront by reminding him that he was still in office, and would preside at all the councils as chancellor, but Bellievre immediately replied with emphasis: "My friend, a chancellor without seals is an apothecary without sugar." [316]

On the 10th of February the Queen gave birth to a second daughter[317] in the palace of the Louvre, to her extreme mortification, the astrologers whom she had consulted having assured her that she was about to become the mother of a Prince. The citizens of Paris were, however, delighted, as no royal child had been born in the capital for a great length of time;[318] while the princes and nobles, throughout the whole of the following month, vied with each other in their efforts to entertain their Majesties, and to cause them to forget their disappointment. It would appear, indeed, that Marie herself soon became reconciled to the sex of the infant Princess, as Bassompierre has left it upon record that even before she was sufficiently recovered to leave her room she used to send for him to play cards with her, an invitation which was always welcome to the handsome and dissipated courtier.[319] She no sooner appeared in public, however, than other and more brilliant amusements were provided for her, consisting of jousts and banquets, Italian comedies and Court balls; but all these were exceeded in interest by a ballet that was performed on horseback in the great court of the Louvre, which had been thickly strewn with sand and surrounded by barriers, save at one opening opposite the seats prepared for their Majesties, through which the four nobles by whom the entertainment had been devised were to enter with their respective trains from the Hotel de Bourbon.

The balconies and windows of the palace were crowded with splendidly dressed nobles and courtiers of both sexes, while a dense mass of people occupied every available spot of ground beyond the enclosure, where platforms had also been erected for the more respectable of the citizens and their families. The King and Queen were seated in the balcony of the centre window, which was draped with crimson velvet, having on their right and left several of the Princes of the Blood and ladies of the highest rank, while immediately behind them were placed the great officers of the Crown and the captains of the bodyguard. The hour selected for this novel and extraordinary exhibition was ten at night, and hundreds of lamps and double the number of torches were affixed to the facade of the palace, towards which every eye was upturned from the compact crowd below. The ballet was designed to represent the four primary Elements, and the appointed moment had no sooner arrived than a flourish of trumpets announced the approach of the Due de Bellegarde, who with his party were to personate Water. The procession was opened by twenty-four pages habited in cloth of silver, each attended by two torch-bearers; these were followed by twelve Syrens playing on hautboys, who were in their turn succeeded by a pyramid whose summit was crowned by a gigantic figure of Neptune, surrounded by water-gods and marine divinities and insignia of every description. This stupendous machine paused for a moment beneath the window of their Majesties, and the aquatic deities having made their obeisance, it passed on, and gave place to twenty-four other pages, habited and attended like the former ones. These preceded the Duke himself at the head of twelve young and brilliant nobles, all clad in cloth of silver, with plumes of white feathers in their jewelled caps, and their horses richly caparisoned in white and silver. Having made the tour of the court, the whole party drew closely together in one angle of the enclosure, in order to make way for the second troop, but not before they had exhibited their equestrian skill, and elicited not only the approving comments of the courtly groups who contemplated them from above, but also the vociferous acclamations of the admiring thousands by whom they were hemmed in. The Due de Bellegarde and his train had no sooner taken up their station than a second fanfare greeted the approach of the powers of Fire, who were ushered in by twenty-four pages dressed in scarlet, closely followed by four blacksmiths dragging an anvil, upon which, when they reached the centre of the court, they began to strike with great violence, and at every blow discharged such a shower of rockets into the air that many a fair dame crouched behind her neighbour for protection from the falling sparks; while the lamps and torches which lit up the palace walls were momentarily eclipsed. As the last rush of rockets burst, and fell back in a Danaean shower, a train of salamanders, phoenix, and other anti-inflammable creatures appeared in their turn, and were followed by the Duc de Rohan, attired as Vulcan, with his twelve companions in the garb of Parthians, all similarly dressed, and armed with lances, swords, and shields, on which their arms were splendidly emblazoned. Renewed feats of dexterous horsemanship were exhibited by this brilliant band, after which, as their predecessors had previously done, they established themselves in an angle of the lists, and made way for the representatives of Air. First came the pages, forming an escort to the goddess Juno, with her attendant eagle and a multitude of other birds, all skilfully imitated and grouped; and when the feathered pageant had passed on, appeared the Comte de Sommerive[320] and his noble band, all wearing the same costume and bearing the same arms. Lastly came Earth, in which the pages were succeeded by two enormous elephants, artistically constructed, and bearing upon their backs small towers filled with musicians, who, as they advanced, poured out a volume of sweet sound, to which several horses, draped with cloth of gold and led by Moors, moved in cadence like the grooms by whom they were conducted. Then followed more pages, and a band of trumpeters whose occasional flourishes overpowered the softer instruments of those who marched in front; and finally, twelve Moorish knights, led by the Duc de Nevers,[321] all resplendent with gold and jewels, closed the procession, and fell back to the remaining extremity of the enclosure. A combat then commenced between the knights of Earth and those of Water, first single-handed, then in couples, and finally troop against troop, and so soon as this had terminated, the cavaliers of Air and Fire went through the same evolutions; when each having exhibited his dexterity in the manege and his skill in arms, the whole of the four bands joined in the melee, shivering their lances, their arrows, and their shields, and then each of the combatants seized a torch which had been prepared for him, and after having ridden round and round each other, making the wandering lights assume the appearance of meteors, the entire company formed once more into order and returned to the Hotel de Bourbon like a long line of fire.[322]

These were precisely the entertainments that Henri IV was eager to encourage, as they involved an expenditure which frequently crippled the means of those by whom they were exhibited for several years; and he was accustomed to declare that it was frequently to the poverty of his nobles that he was indebted for their fidelity, as they no sooner found themselves in a position to arm a few retainers and assume the offensive, than they forthwith began to organize a cabal.

The King having, in the month of March of this year, determined upon proceeding in person to quell the disturbances in the provinces, and to compel the Duc de Bouillon, who was known as the instigator of these disorders, to obedience, made preparations on an extensive scale for this purpose, and raised a powerful army in order to prove his resolution to terminate all similar attempts. In this project he was warmly encouraged by the Queen, who was to accompany him in his journey, the Duc de Sully having urged her with the most earnest arguments to suggest to his Majesty that although he was able personally, from his prowess and authority, to resist the insidious aggressions of M. de Bouillon, the case would be widely different were the infant Prince, by any sudden dispensation of Providence, to be called upon to supply his place. "The rebel Duke, Madame," said the prudent and upright minister, "would prove a formidable enemy to a woman and a child; and this should be looked to while your royal consort is still in the plenitude of health and strength."

Marie de Medicis at once felt the force of this reasoning; and although the caution might probably appear to her as somewhat premature, she nevertheless lost no time in entreating the King to make such an example of the restless and ambitious Bouillon as might deter others from following in his track.

"You are at once right and wrong, ma mie" replied Henry with his usual promptitude. "There can be no doubt that the temper and projects of this man tend to disturb the peace of the kingdom, and that were he to lose his head a great peril would be escaped; but we must not forget that he is a Prince of the Blood, and that he may be severely punished through his pride. I have resolved to take Sedan out of his hands, and to humble him upon the very threshold of his power; and this vengeance upon his rebellion will be ample, as he has taught himself to believe that I dare not attack him in his stronghold. Once subdued he will be undeceived, and I shall then be enabled to pardon him without having my clemency mistaken for fear, and I will take such measures as shall ensure his future submission." [323]

On the 15th of the month, the Court of Parliament, on a summons from the sovereign, proceeded to the Louvre, where Henry explained to them his reasons for besieging the Marechal de Bouillon in Sedan, and possessing himself of the town and citadel. "A failure," he concluded, "is impossible; and as an earnest of success the Queen will accompany me. To-morrow we commence our journey; but do not conceive that I set forth against the Duke with any preconceived design of vengeance. My arms will be open to him should he acknowledge his error, for I have been his benefactor, and have made him what he is. But should he decline to offer his submission and to recognize my authority, I trust that God will favour my arms. Above all things, during my absence, I entreat of you to administer the strictest justice; and I leave in your hands the Dauphin, my son, whom I have caused to be removed from St. Germain to Paris, in order to place him under your protection; and I do so with the most entire confidence, as next to myself he should be to you the most sacred trust on earth." [324]

On the morrow, accordingly; the King and Queen set forth, accompanied by a brilliant retinue, and closely followed by the Duc de Sully with fifty pieces of ordnance and twenty-five thousand men; a fact which was no sooner ascertained than the rebel Marshal despatched messengers to Torcy, the frontier village of France, who were authorized to pledge themselves that the Duke was willing to deliver up the citadel of Sedan for the space of ten years, if at the termination of that period his Majesty would consent to restore it, should he, in the interim, have become satisfied of his loyalty and devotion. He, however, annexed another condition to his surrender, which was that an act of oblivion should be passed, and that he should never thenceforward be subjected to any injury, either of property or person, for whatever acts of disobedience to the royal authority he might have previously been considered responsible, and should be left in untroubled possession of all his honours, estates, and offices under the Crown.

Having carefully perused this treaty, the King at once consented to the proposed terms, on the understanding that the Marshal should on the following morning present himself at Donchery, where the Court were to halt that night, before their Majesties should have risen. This he accordingly did on the 21st, when upon his knees beside the royal couch he repeated and ratified the pledges of fidelity contained in his appeal for pardon, and had the honour of kissing hands with both sovereigns; the King assuring him as he did so that he valued the citadel of Sedan far less than the recovery of so valued a friend and subject.

Their Majesties then made a solemn entry into the city, attended by a train of princes and nobles, and were received with loud and long-continued shouts of "Long live the King!" "Long live the Queen and the Dauphin!" Salvos of artillery were fired from the ramparts of the town and the citadel, and the whole progress of the royal cortege through the streets resembled a triumphal procession. In the evening the entire city was illuminated; and the vociferous cheering of the excited people testified their delight at the bloodless and peaceful termination of an expedition from which they had anticipated for themselves only danger and distress.

The whole population was in a state of delirium; the royal equipages as they traversed the streets were followed by admiring crowds; the gay and gaudy nobles were watched by bright eyes, and welcomed by rosy lips; the civic authorities dreamt only of balls and banquets; and, in short, the rock-seated city, bristling as it was with cannon, and frowning with fortifications, appeared to have become suddenly transformed into the chosen abode of the Loves and Graces.

Having remained five days at Sedan, the King appointed a new governor and returned to Paris, whither he was accompanied by the whole of the royal party, which was moreover augmented by the presence of the Duc de Bouillon, who, according to Bassompierre, was as much at his ease, and as arrogant in his deportment, as though he had never incurred the risk of the headsman as a rebel and a traitor. The Court dined at La Roquette, and it was near dusk when they reached the Barriere St. Antoine, where they were met by the corporate bodies. Henry himself rode on horseback, preceded by eight hundred nobles in full dress, and followed by four Princes of the Blood, in whose train came other princes, dukes, and officers of the Court, among whom were the Marechal de Bouillon and Prince Juan de Medicis. The Queen occupied her state coach, having beside her the Duchesses de Guise and de Nevers, and the Princesse de Conti. As the royal party halted at the barrier, the Civil Lieutenant, M. de Miron, provost of the merchants, delivered a congratulatory address to the King in the name of the city; but this loyal effusion was rendered inaudible by the booming of the cannon from the Bastille, and the crashing and whizzing of the rockets and other fireworks, which, by order of the Due de Sully, were let off immediately that the monarch had passed the gates.[325] So soon as the address was terminated, the gorgeous procession resumed its march, Sully riding on the left hand of the King, by whom this enthusiastic reception had been deeply felt; nor did his gratification suffer any decrease on observing as he passed on that every window upon his way was crowded with fair and animated faces. As he glanced towards the Bastille, the minister attracted his attention to the Comtesse d'Auvergne, who had latterly been permitted to visit her husband, and who was gazing wistfully from one of the narrow casements. As Henry recognized her, he withdrew his plumed cap, and bent his head with a courtesy and kindness which was remarked and commented upon by those around him; but his most gracious recognition was vouchsafed to the Comtesse de Moret, who was seated at a window in the Rue St. Antoine, surrounded by a bevy of beauties, who only served to render her own loveliness the more conspicuous.[326]

Thus, amid the deafening report of the artillery and the enthusiastic plaudits of the people, Henry and his Queen at length reached the Louvre, and terminated their bloodless campaign.

On the 30th of May the law courts, after three long and patient sittings, declared the ex-Queen Marguerite to be the lawful heir to the counties of Auvergne and Clermont, the barony of La Tour, and other estates which had appertained to the late Queen Catherine de Medicis; asserting that they had hitherto been unjustly possessed by Charles de Valois, who had also wrongfully derived his title of Comte d'Auvergne from one of them; and directed that the said territories should forthwith be transferred to the ex-Queen Marguerite, to whom they rightfully belonged. When this decision was pronounced, the Princess was assisting at the celebration of mass in the church of St. Saviour, whither M. Drieux, her chancellor, at once proceeded with the glad tidings, which he had no sooner imparted, than, overjoyed by the intelligence, she rose from her knees before the service was concluded, and leaving the church, hastened to the monastery of the Cordeliers, where she caused a "Te Deum" to be chanted in gratitude for her success.

A few days subsequently, while at the Louvre, the ex-Queen, in the presence of Marie de Medicis, made a donation of the recovered estates to the Dauphin, on condition that they should be annexed to the Crown, and never under any consideration, or upon any pretext, alienated. Marguerite, however, reserved to herself the income derivable from these possessions during her life; and she no sooner found her means adequate to the undertaking than she commenced the enlargement of the hotel which she had previously purchased in the Faubourg St. Germain, near the Pre aux Clercs, and the embellishment of the spacious gardens which swept down to the bank of the river opposite the Louvre.

Here it was, under the very shadow of the palace which should have been her home, that Marguerite held her little court; passing from her oratory to scenes of vice and voluptuousness which, happily, are unparalleled in these times; one day doing penance with bare feet and a robe of serge, and the next reposing upon velvet cushions and pillowed on down—now fasting like an anchorite, and now feasting like a bacchante; one hour dispensing charity so lavishly as to call down the blessings of hundreds on her head, and the next causing her lacqueys to chase with ignominious words and blows from beneath her roof the honest creditors who claimed their hard-earned gains. Extreme in everything, she gave a tithe of all that she possessed to the monks, although she did not shrink from confessing that her favourites cost her a still larger annual sum; and while she encouraged and appreciated the society of men of letters, and profited largely by their companionship, she condescended to the most frivolous follies, and abandoned herself to the most licentious pleasures.[327]

The insipidity of Madame de Moret soon counteracted the spell of her beauty; and although on his return from Sedan the King had appeared to be more fascinated by her extraordinary loveliness than even at the first period of their acquaintance, it was not long ere he listened with a patience very unusual to him to the indignant remonstrances of the Queen on this new infidelity, and even assured her that her reproaches were misplaced. Marie, who perceived the prodigality with which the King lavished upon the frail fair one the most costly gifts, and who saw her, through the mock marriage which she had contracted, assume a place at Court which occasionally even brought her into contact with herself, could not so readily lay aside her suspicions; and although she had at first rejoiced to find that the fancy of the monarch could be diverted from Madame de Verneuil, she had never anticipated that the liaison would have endured so long. Henry, however, profited by this mistake; and while the Queen was still jealously watching the proceedings of Madame de Moret, he renewed with less secrecy his commerce with the witty and seductive Marquise, unconscious that she was at that period encouraging the addresses of the Due de Guise. Nor did this partial desertion tend to wound the vanity of Madame de Moret, or to excite her ire against her rival; for once more the Prince de Joinville, who appeared to take a reckless pleasure in braving the anger of the monarch, had found favour in the eyes of one of his mistresses, and was established as the admitted lover of the facile Countess. Thus deceived on both sides, Henry had no annoyance to apprehend from either of the frail rivals; but such could not long remain the case with the Queen. There were too many eyes and ears about her ever open to discover and to retain the gossipry of the Court, and too many tongues ready to reveal all which might at the moment appear acceptable to her wounded feelings and insatiable desire to dwell upon the details of her unhappiness.

Princes should pause before they err, for they are a world's beacon. Every eye turns towards them for example and for support; and thus, where the one is evil, and the other wanting, the results of the failure may prove incalculable. The flaw in the diamond, the alloy in the gold, the stain in the purple, the blot upon the ermine—all these are detected upon the instant; the value of the jewel is decreased, the price of the metal is deteriorated, the glory of the hue is tarnished, the purity of the mantle is sullied; and where minor imperfections may pass unperceived, a mighty social lens is for ever bearing upon the great.

Angered and disappointed, the Queen, who had passed a short time in comparative tranquillity, once more found herself a prey to mortification and neglect; and so greatly did she resent the renewed intercourse between Henry and his favourite, that for upwards of a fortnight not a word was exchanged between the royal pair.[328] At length, however, through the intervention of Sully, Sillery, and the other ministers, a sort of hollow peace was effected, and the Court removed to St. Germain, where the royal children constantly resided. Here they remained until the 9th of June, on which day, notwithstanding the unfavourable state of the weather, they set forth on their return to the capital. Their Majesties occupied a coach, in which, together with themselves, were the Princesse de Conti and the Dues de Vendome and de Montpensier;[329] other carriages followed with the ladies of the Queen's retinue; and a numerous train of nobles and attendants on horseback preceded the bodyguard. At that period no bridge existed at Neuilly, where the river was crossed in a ferry-boat which was waiting to receive the royal party, who, in consequence of the heavy rain, were driven on board; but unfortunately the beating of the water against the side of the frail bark, occasioned by the swollen state of the stream and the violence of the wind, so terrified the leaders of the royal coach, that it had no sooner left the land than they swerved so violently as to destroy the equilibrium of the boat, which instantly capsized, when the carriage was upset into the water, and immediately filled. The King, who was an excellent swimmer, was soon rescued by the attendants, a score of whom threw themselves from their horses into the river to afford assistance; but he no sooner reached the bank than he once more swam back to the rescue of the Queen and her companions. Marie, however, was already in safety, having been with considerable difficulty carried to land by the Baron de la Chataigneraie,[330] who was compelled to seize her by her hair, to prevent her from being carried down by the current, and who, having placed her under the care of her ladies, returned to the assistance of the Duc de Vendome, whom he also succeeded in saving. The Princesse de Conti and M. de Montpensier, having been immersed on the landward side of the carriage, were rescued with comparative ease; but the peril had nevertheless been great, and the consternation general. Marie de Medicis, when brought on shore, was in a state of insensibility, and it was a considerable time before she recovered consciousness; nor had she yet opened her eyes when she gasped out an agitated inquiry for the King.[331] Finally, however, all the party were enabled to take possession of one of the carriages of the suite, and to pursue their journey; but not before the Queen had desired that the person by whom she had been saved should be requested to attend her; upon which M. de la Chataigneraie presented himself, with the water pouring from his embroidered mantle; and it was with no little surprise and gratification that their Majesties ascertained that not only the gallant La Chataigneraie, but also several other members of the royal escort, had flung themselves into the river without waiting to throw off either their cloaks or swords.[332] Marie made her acknowledgments to the gallant young noble with an earnest courtesy which would in itself have been a sufficient recompense for his exertions; but while speaking, she also detached from her dress a magnificent diamond cluster, valued at four thousand crowns, which she tendered to him with the intelligence that he was from that moment the captain of her bodyguard, and that she should thenceforward further his fortunes.

"And now, gentlemen," said the King gaily, as the agitated and grateful young courtier knelt to kiss the hand which was extended towards him, "let us resume our journey. When we left St. Germain I was, as you all know, suffering agonies from toothache, which is now cured; this bath has been the best remedy I have ever applied; and if any of us dined too heartily upon salt provisions, we have at least the satisfaction of feeling that we have been enabled to drink freely since." [333]

A few hours after his arrival in the capital, the King paid a visit to the Marquise de Verneuil, to whom he related the escape of himself and his companions;[334] but even on so serious an occasion as this, and one which had threatened such tragical consequences to the Queen, the insolent favourite could not comment without indulging in the sarcastic and bitter pleasantry which she always affected in making any allusion to her royal mistress. After feeling or feigning great anxiety on the subject of Henry's own escape, she said with malicious gaiety: "Had I been there, when once I had seen you safe, I should have exclaimed with great composure, 'The Queen drinks.'" [335]

Unfortunately the King, taken by surprise, laughed heartily at this sally, a circumstance which was duly reported to Marie de Medicis, and which greatly increased her irritation. This new cause of offence was so grave that she could not forgive the levity of the King more readily than the heartless insolence of his mistress; and she carried her resentment to so extreme a pitch that she refused to receive him in her apartments. Such a determination was naturally productive of serious confusion in the palace, as it infringed upon all the accustomed etiquette of the Court, and created great perplexity among the officers of state; but remonstrances were vain. Marie, stung to the soul by the insult to which she had been subjected, and which her royal consort had not only suffered to pass unrebuked, but to which he had in some degree contributed, would not rescind her resolution; while the King was, in his turn, equally violent. In vain did the Due de Villeroy, Sully, and others of the great nobles, endeavour to mediate between them: reason was lost in passion on both sides; and once more Henry declared his determination to exile the Queen to one of his palaces. From this extreme measure he was, however, dissuaded by his ministers; and at length, after the estrangement between the royal couple had lasted nearly three weeks, a partial reconciliation was effected; but Marie, although she was induced by the representations of her advisers to restrain her indignation, was from that hour alienated in heart from her husband, by whom she felt that her dignity had been compromised both as a Queen and as a wife.

Profiting, however, by this partial calm, several of the nobility proposed to add to the amusements of the Carnival, in commemoration of the recent escape of their Majesties, a ballet in which the Queen consented to appear; and the preparations were already far advanced when the King solicited her permission to include Madame de Moret among the performers, but Marie, who had previously condescended to associate herself in a similar exhibition with the Marquise de Verneuil, had been rendered less amenable by recent circumstances, and she peremptorily refused to appear in such intimate association with another of her husband's mistresses. The concession was not one upon which Henry could insist with any propriety, a fact of which the Queen was so well aware, that in order to terminate the affair as gracefully as possible she declined altogether either to assist in the entertainment or even to witness it, a decision which caused it to be abandoned altogether.[336] This mortification was, however, compensated to the Countess by a donation from the King of eighty-five thousand five hundred francs.[337]

At the commencement of July the King had accredited the Marechal de Bassompierre as his ambassador-extraordinary to Lorraine, to be present at the marriage of the Duc de Bar, his brother-in-law, with the daughter of the Duke of Mantua, the Queen's niece; and had also furnished him with instructions to invite the Duchess of Mantua[338] to become the godmother of the Dauphin, and the Duc de Lorraine to act as sponsor to the younger Princess. The marriage took place at Nancy, where M. de Bassompierre, as the representative of his sovereign, was magnificently and gratuitously entertained.[339] Numerous balls were given, and a joust concluded the festivities; which were no sooner terminated than the courtly envoy communicated the royal invitation, which was received "with proper respect and honour"; and he then hastened his return to Paris in order to prepare the gorgeous dress already alluded to elsewhere as having been defrayed by his gains at play.

Towards the close of the month, the two illustrious sponsors reached Villers-Cotterets, where they were met by the King and Queen, with the whole Court, and thence conducted to Paris. The Duchess arrived in a state coach of such extreme magnificence as to attract immediate notice, but with so slender a retinue as to provoke the sarcasms of the courtiers, who declared that they recognized her rank only by the carriage in which she rode; and the Mantuan suite accordingly became a favourite topic with the idle and the censorious. Great preparations were made at Notre-Dame for the ceremony, which was to take place on the 14th of September, and meanwhile nothing was thought of save pleasure and preparation. Bassompierre gives an amusing account of the distress of the tailors and embroiderers of the capital, who were unable to comply with the demands of their employers, and many of whom were kidnapped and carried off by persons of the highest rank in order to secure themselves against disappointment. All Paris was in turmoil; the great were busy in devising costumes which were to transcend all that had previously been seen at the French Court, and the operatives were equally occupied in executing the orders which they received.

In the midst of this excitement, however, the plague, which had long existed in the capital, declared itself more fatally; several officers of Queen Marguerite's household died under her roof, and the alarm became so great that the King removed his Court to Fontainebleau, where the baptismal ceremonies were performed with great magnificence on the day previously appointed.

These ceremonies were so curious and characteristic that we shall offer no apology to our readers for giving them in detail.

Each of the royal children had been privately baptized a few days after its birth, but the public christening had been hitherto deferred in order that it might be celebrated with becoming splendour. The desire of the King had always been that the Sovereign-Pontiff should act as sponsor to the Dauphin, the eldest son of France being, as he declared, the eldest son of the Church, and the successive deaths of Clement VIII[340] and Leo XI[341] had accordingly delayed the celebration of the ceremony. Paul V was, however, no sooner apprised of the wishes of the French monarch than he despatched a brief to the Cardinal de Joyeuse for registration in the Court of Parliament, by which that prelate was constituted Papal Legate and representative, and instructed in all things to support the holiness and dignity of the Apostolical See.

The turret-court at Fontainebleau was selected as the most appropriate spot for the construction of the temporary chapel, the great hall of the palace being totally inadequate to contain the thousands who had collected from every part of the country to witness the ceremony.

This immense area was completely enclosed by the costly gold-woven tapestry of which the manufacture had been, as we have stated, introduced and encouraged by the King, and had in its centre a square space, thirty feet in extent, surrounded by barriers, and similarly hung and carpeted with tapestry. In the front of this enclosure stood an altar magnificently ornamented with the symbols of the Order of the Holy Ghost, and a table gorgeously draped, both being surmounted by canopies. Behind the table stood a platform raised three steps from the floor, and in the midst of this was placed a column covered with cloth of silver, upon which rested the font, protected by a superb christening-cloth and a lofty canopy. On each side of the altar a gallery had been erected which was filled with musicians, and beneath that upon the right hand was a tapestried bench for the archbishops, bishops, and members of the Council, while immediately in front of the shrine were placed the seats of the Cardinal de Gondy, who was to perform the baptismal ceremonies, and the almoners and chaplains of his suite. The whole of the court was lined by the Swiss Guards, each holding a lighted torch, whose rays were reflected by the myriad jewels that adorned the persons of the courtly spectators. All the Princes of the Blood and great nobles wore their mantles clasped and embroidered with precious stones, their plumed caps looped with diamonds, and their sword-hilts encrusted with gems. That of the Due d'Epernon was estimated at more than thirty thousand crowns, and several others were of almost equal value. The attire of the Princesses and ladies of the Court was, however, still more splendid, many of them standing with difficulty under the weight of the closely-jewelled brocade of which their dresses were composed, and wearing upon their heads masses of brilliants which might have ransomed a province. The Queen, whose dowry, as we have elsewhere shown, in a great measure consisted of costly ornaments, appeared on this occasion with a magnificence almost fabulous, her robe of cloth of gold and velvet being studded with no less than thirty-two thousand pearls and three thousand diamonds.

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