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The Life of Marie de Medicis, Vol. 1 (of 3)
by Julia Pardoe
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While their Majesties and their illustrious guests took possession of their respective seats, the prescribed ceremonial of preparation was in progress with the royal children, who had all been placed in state beds covered with ermined draperies under canopies of crimson velvet. Madame Elisabeth, the elder Princess, being surrounded by the ladies who were privileged to assist at her levee, the outer coverlet of her bed was withdrawn by the Comtesse de Sault and the Comtesse de Guissen; she was then lifted from it by Madame de Lavardin, undressed by Madame de Randan, and robed in her state costume by the Marquise de Montlor.

Madame Christine, the younger Princess, was meanwhile uncovered by the Duchesse de Guise and Mademoiselle de Mayenne, lifted in the arms of Mademoiselle de Vendome, undressed by the Duchesse de Rohan, and robed by the Duchesse de Sully.

The Dauphin underwent the same ceremonies, but he was attended only by Princesses of the Blood. It was the Princesses de Conti and de Soissons who drew off the ermined quilt, the Princesse de Conde and the Duchesse de Montpensier by whom he was undressed, and Mademoiselle de Bourbon who adjusted his state robes.

When all the royal children were attired, the procession was formed. The Swiss Guards moved first, each carrying a lighted torch, and on arriving within the court they defiled, and, as before mentioned, lined the walls; the hundred gentlemen on duty in the palace followed, and these were succeeded by the ordinary members of the household and the gentlemen of the bedchamber all carrying tapers of white wax. After them came the drums, fifes, hautboys, and trumpets, together with nine heralds, behind whom walked the Grand Provost of the palace, the Knights of the Holy Ghost, and finally, the Children of France with their respective retinues. The first group consisted of the train of the younger Princess, in which the Baron de la Chatre[342] bore the vase, M. de Montigny[343] the basin, the Comte de la Rochepot the cushion, M. de Chemerault the taper, M. de Liancourt[344] the christening-cap, and the Marechal de Fervaques[345] the salt-cellar. The Marquis de Bois-Dauphin[346] carried the infant in his arms, and Madame de Chemerault bore her train. She was followed by a suite of twelve nobles, each bearing a flambeau in his hand; and after these came the Due de Lorraine as godfather, with Don Juan de Medicis, son of the Grand Duke Ferdinand of Tuscany, as proxy for the Grand Duchess of Florence, the other sponsor, the ladies who had assisted at the Princess's levee closing the train.

This party had no sooner taken possession of the place assigned to them than the second group began to enter the enclosure. First came the Marechal de Lavardin[347] with the ewer, then the Duc de Sully with the cushion, next the Duc de Montbazon[348] with the taper, then the Duc d'Epernon with the christening-cap, and finally, the Duc d'Aiguillon with the salt-cellar. The Prince de Joinville carried the Princess, whose ermine train was borne by Mademoiselle de Rohan. There was no godfather, and the Duchesse d'Angouleme[349] walked alone as the proxy of the Archduchess Elisabeth of Flanders, immediately behind Madame, followed by Mademoiselle de Montmorency as her train-bearer, and the ladies who had assisted at the levee.

Finally appeared the third and last division of the procession, headed by the Prince de Vaudemont,[350] carrying the taper; and then followed in succession the Chevalier de Vendome with the christening-cap, the Duc de Vendome with the salt-cellar, the Duc de Montpensier with the ewer, the Comte de Soissons with the basin, and the Prince de Conti with the cushion; the Sieur Gilles de Souvry carried the Dauphin, whose right hand was held by the Prince de Conti, while the train of his velvet mantle, edged with ermine, was borne by the Duc de Guise, behind whom followed twenty great nobles holding lighted flambeaux. These were succeeded by the Cardinal-Legate de Joyeuse, who represented Paul V as sponsor, and the Duchess of Mantua, the godmother, the Princesses of the Blood who had assisted at the levee closing the procession.

The Dauphin having been placed upon the table, the Cardinal approached him and demanded: "Sir, what do you ask?"

"The sacramental ceremonies of baptism," replied the little Prince, according to the instructions which he had received from the Almoner of Boulogne.

"Have you already been baptized?" again inquired the prelate.

"Yes, thank God," said the Dauphin firmly. To all the other interrogations of the Cardinal he simply answered, "Ab renuncio"

After the unction, when questioned on his belief according to the ordinary form, the little Prince responded audibly, "Credo"; and finally, he recited without error or hesitation the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Creed.

The Princesses were then successively placed upon the table, when the elder was named Elisabeth, after her illustrious godmother the Archduchess of Flanders, and the younger Christine.

The baptismal ceremonies were followed by a grand banquet served upon four different tables. The attendants at that of the King were the Princes de Conde, de Conti, and de Montpensier; while the Queen was waited on by the Dues de Vendome, de Guise, and de Vaudemont; the Legate by the Comte de Candale and the Marquis de Rosny;[351] and the Duchess of Mantua by the Baron de Bassompierre and the Comte de Sault.

On the following day the morning was occupied by the courtiers in tilting at the ring, the prizes being distributed by the Queen and the Duchess of Mantua; and at dusk the whole of the royal party proceeded to the wide plain which lies to the east of Fontainebleau, in the centre of which the Due de Sully had caused a castellated building to be erected, which was filled with rockets and other artificial fireworks, and which was besieged, stormed, and taken by an army of satyrs and savages. This spectacle greatly delighted the Court, while not the least interesting feature of the exhibition was presented by the immense concourse of people (estimated at upwards of twelve thousand) who had collected to witness the magnificent pyrotechnic display, and who rent the air with their acclamations of loyalty.[352]

All further rejoicings were, however, rendered unseasonable by the rapid increase of the plague, which having declared itself with great virulence at Fontainebleau, induced the hasty departure of the Court; and the illustrious guests having taken leave of the King and Queen laden with rich presents, their Majesties, with a limited retinue, repaired for a time to Montargis.

These baptismal festivities had not, meanwhile, been without alloy to the dissipated monarch. Despite the fascination of the wily Marquise, and the charms of the Comtesse de Moret, Henry was by no means insensible to the attractions of the many beautiful women who followed in the suite of the Queen at the august ceremony just described; and, among others, he especially honoured with his notice the Duchesses de Montpensier[353] and de Nevers.

In neither case, however, was he destined to be successful, both these ladies possessing too much self-respect to accord any attention to his illicit gallantries; and this failure, especially with the latter, of whom he had become seriously enamoured, only tended to re-engage him with Madame de Verneuil. Throughout all the period occupied by the christening festivities, Madame de Nevers[354] had been the object of his special pursuit; but so carefully did she avoid all occasions of private conversation, that the King, unaccustomed to so decided a resistance, became irritated to a degree which induced her to escape from the Court as soon as the found it practicable; and accordingly, on the very day after the festivities, she left Fontainebleau without any previous intimation of such a design, resisting all the efforts made by the sovereign to detain her. Nor did she yield to his subsequent endeavours for her recall, but on the appointment of her husband during the following year to the embassy at Rome, she accompanied him thither; and several months elapsed ere she reappeared in France, where her duty having compelled her to pay her respects to the Queen on her return, Henry was so little master of himself as to display his mortification by inquiring who she was, and on her name being announced, to exclaim loud enough for her to hear his reply: "Ha! Madame la Duchesse de Nevers! She is terribly altered."

The shaft fell harmless. The lady evinced the most perfect composure under the royal criticism, and having fulfilled her duties as a subject towards her sovereigns, she once more withdrew from the Court, and terminated her life as she had commenced it, without scandal or reproach.[355]

FOOTNOTES:

[312] Mamanga was the name given in playfulness by the Dauphin to Madame de Montglat.

[313] Madame de Drou was the governess of the infant Princess.

[314] Mademoiselle de Piolant, femme-de-chambre to the royal children.

[315] Sully, Mem. vol. vi. pp. 151-161.

[316] Bassompierre, Mem. p. 45.

[317] Madame Christine de France, who subsequently became Duchess of Savoy.

[318] L'Etoile, vol. iii. p. 36;

[319] Memoires, p. 46.

[320] Charles Emmanuel de Lorraine, Comte de Sommerive, second son of the Duc de Mayenne, who restored the city of Laon to the King in 1594, and died at Naples in 1609.

[321] Charles de Gonzaga de Cleves, Duc de Nevers, was the son of Louis de Gonzaga, Prince of Mantua, Duc de Nevers, and Governor of Champagne (who died in 1601, and to whose title he succeeded), and of Henriette de Cleves, Duchesse de Nevers et de Rethel.

[322] Mercure Francais, 1606, pp. 100, 101.

[323] Richelieu, La Mere et le Fils, vol. i. p. 14.

[324] Mercure Francais, 1606, p. 102.

[325] Mercure Francais, 1606, p. 106.

[326] L'Etoile, vol. iii. p. 358.

[327] Mezeray, vol. x. p. 282.

[328] Dreux du Radier, vol. vi. pp. 102, 103.

[329] Henri de Bourbon, Due de Montpensier, Governor of Normandy, peer of France, Prince of La Roche-sur-Yon, Dauphin d'Auvergne, etc., was born in Touraine in 1573. During the lifetime of his father he bore the title of Prince de Dombes. The King confided to him the command of the army which he despatched to Brittany against the Due de Mercoeur. He subsequently became Governor of Normandy, and reduced that revolted province, which still held out for the League, to obedience. He was present at the memorable siege of Amiens in 1597, where he led the vanguard of the army, and accompanied Henry on his expedition against Savoy and Brescia. He was a knight of all the King's Orders, and presided at the assembly of the nobles of Rouen. He died in Paris, of lingering consumption, in 1608.

[330] The Baron de la Chataigneraie was an officer of the Queen's guard.

[331] Richelieu, La Mere et le Fils vol. i. p. 18. Mercure Francais 1606, p. 107. L'Etoile, vol. iii. p. 370 note.

[332] Mercure Francais, 1606, p. 107.

[333] L'Etoile, vol. iii. p. 370.

[334] It had frequently been foretold to the King that he would die in a carriage, and the prophecy had made so great an impression upon his mind, that he always endeavoured to conceal it under a show of gaiety, particularly when any accident occurred by which it appeared likely to be verified. In the year 1597, while he was travelling near Mouy, in Picardy, the coach in which he rode was tumbled down a precipice; while the danger incurred at Neuilly was scarcely less great; and the prediction was fatally accomplished in 1610.—Lettres de Nicolas Pasquier, book i. letter i.

[335] In order to render this impertinence intelligible, it is necessary to explain that anciently, when the sovereigns of France were about to swallow their first draught at table, the cup-bearer announced in a loud voice, "The King drinks"; upon which a flourish of trumpets, at a given signal, announced the important fact to those who were not present.

[336] Saint-Edme, vol. ii. pp. 237, 238.

[337] Sully, Mem. vol. vi. p. 233.

[338] Eleonora de Medicis, wife of Vincent I, Duke of Mantua, and sister to the French Queen.

[339] Bassompierre, Mem. p. 50.

[340] Ippolito Aldobrandini, subsequently Pope Clement VIII, was born at Fano. He was created a cardinal in 1585, and in 1592 succeeded Innocent IX. He reconciled Henri IV to the Church of Rome, attached the duchy of Ferrara to the Holy See, organized the famous congregations de auxiliis on grace and free-will, and contributed to the Peace of Vervins. He died in 1605.

[341] Alessandro de Medicis, who succeeded Clement VIII in 1605, and died the same year.

[342] Claude de la Chatre, Marshal of France, was the son of Claude de la Chatre, Baron de Nancy, Besigny, and Baune de la Maisonfort. He was created Knight of St. Michael and of the Holy Ghost by Henri III in 1588, and was Governor of Berry and Orleans. He distinguished himself in several engagements; and his own valour, combined with the protection of the Connetable de Montmorency, of whom he had been a page in his youth, rapidly acquired for him both fortune and renown. After the death of Henri III, M. de la Chatre embraced the cause of the League, when the Duc de Mayenne, at the solicitation of M. de Guise, created him Marshal of France, in which character he assisted at what were called by the Leaguers the States of Paris.

[343] Francois de la Grange, Seigneur de Montigny and de Sery, was a member of the Court of Henri III, and was one of his mignons. He was, under that monarch, successively gentleman of the bedchamber, captain of the palace-guard, head-steward of the household, and Governor of Berry, Blois, etc. He acquired great distinction by his bravery at the battle of Coutras, and at the sieges of Aubigny, Rouen, and Fontaine-Francaise, and was admitted a knight of the King's Orders the same year (1595). Finally, in 1616, he was created Marshal of France.

[344] Nicolas du Plessis, Comte de Liancourt, Comte de Beaumont, first equerry to the King, and Governor of Paris. He married Antoinette de Pons, Marquise de Guercheville, the widow of Henri de Silly, Comte de la Rocheguyon, a lady of extraordinary beauty who had been reared in the Court of Henri III.

[345] Guillaume de Hautemer, Comte de Grancy, Seigneur de Fervaques, knight of the King's Orders, and Marshal of France.

[346] Urbain de Laval, Marquis de Bois-Dauphin, Comte de Bresteau, Seigneur de Persigny, etc., was the son of Rene de Laval, second of the name, Seigneur de Bois-Dauphin, and of Jeanne de Lenoncourt-Monteuil, his second wife. He was taken prisoner at the battle of Ivry, and was created Marshal of France by the Due de Mayenne. Henri IV confirmed him in this dignity, and restored to him his estates of Sably and Chateau-Gontier.

[347] Jean de Beaumanoir, Marquis de Lavardin, was the son of Charles de Beaumanoir, who was killed at the massacre of St. Bartholomew. He had been brought up a Protestant at the Court of Henri IV, when that monarch was King of Navarre; but after the death of his father he embraced the Catholic religion, and at the age of eighteen commenced the career of arms, in which profession he acquired so much celebrity that he commanded the armies of the King during the absence of the Duc de Joyeuse. In 1595 he was honoured with the cordon of St. Michael, was created a Marshal of France, and his estate of Lavardin was erected into a marquisate. At the coronation of Louis XIII he officiated as Grand Master, was subsequently ambassador-extraordinary in England, and died at Paris in 1614.

[348] Hercule de Rohan, Duc de Montbazon, and Prince de Guemenee, was born in 1568, and was the father, by his first marriage, of Marie de Rohan, who married Louis Charles d'Albert, Duc de Luynes, from whom she was divorced in 1621, and who subsequently became the wife of Claude de Lorraine, Duc de Chevreuse. The Duc de Montbazon had issue by his second marriage with Marie d'Avaugour of Brittany in 1628, Francois, a branch of the house of Soubise, which became extinct in 1787; Marie Eleonore, abbess of the convent of the Trinity at Caen; and Anne, who became the second wife of Louis Charles d'Albert, Duc de Luynes. M. de Montbazon died in 1654.

[349] Diane de France, Duchesse d'Angouleme, born in 1538, was the legitimated daughter of Henri II and Philippa Duco, a Piedmontese lady. She was first married (in 1553)to Horatio Farnese, Duc de Castro, who only survived their union six months; and subsequently to the Marechal de Montmorency, the son of the Connetable, in 1557, of whom she became the widow in 1579. Her firmness and prudence were conspicuous during the civil wars, and it was through her exertions that the reconciliation was effected between Henri III and Henri IV, when the latter was King of Navarre. She died in 1619.

[350] The Prince de Vaudemont was the brother of the Duc de Lorraine.

[351] Maximilien de Bethune, Marquis de Rosny, was the elder son of the Due de Sully and of Anne de Courtenay, his first wife. He was Superintendent of Fortifications, Governor of Mantes and Gergeau, and was destined to succeed his father as Grand Master had he survived him. He died in 1634.

[352] Mercure Francais, 1606, pp. 110-113.

[353] Henriette Catherine, Duchesse de Joyeuse, daughter and heiress of Henri de Joyeuse, Comte de Bouchage, Marshal of France, who died a Capuchin under the name of Pere Ange, and of Catherine de la Valette. She had, in 1597, become the wife of Henri de Bourbon, Due de Montpensier, etc., the last Prince of his line, who dying in 1608 left her a widow. After the death of Henri IV (1611), she re-married with Charles de Lorraine, Due de Guise, and died in 1656, at the age of seventy-one years.

[354] Catherine de Lorraine, daughter of Charles, Duc de Mayenne, and niece of Guise le Balafre. She married (in 1599) Charles de Gonzaga, Duc de Nevers, who subsequently became, by the death of Vincent I, Duke of Mantua. She died on the 8th of March 1618, at the early age of thirty-three years.

[355] Amours du Grand Alcandre, p. 48. Dreux du Radier, vol. vi. pp. 88-90.



CHAPTER VII

1607

Profuse expenditure of the French nobles—Prevalence of duelling under Henri IV—Meeting of the Prince de Conde and the Duc de Nevers—They are arrested by the King's guard—Reconciliation of the two nobles—The Duc de Soubise is wounded in a duel—Profligacy of Madame de Moret—The King insists upon her marriage with the Prince de Joinville—Indignation of the Duchesse de Guise—A dialogue with Majesty—The Prince de Joinville is exiled—Madame de Moret intrigues with the Comte de Sommerive—He promises her marriage—He attempts to assassinate M. de Balagny—He is exiled to Lorraine—Mademoiselle des Essarts—Birth of the Duc d'Orleans—Peace between the Pope and the Venetians—The Queen and her confidants—Death of the Chancellor of France—Death of the Cardinal de Lorraine—Royal rejoicings—The last ballet of a dying Prince—Betrothal of Mademoiselle de Montpensier to the infant Duc d'Orleans—Sully as a theatrical manager—The Court gamester—Death of the Duc de Montpensier—The ex-Queen Marguerite founds a monastery—Influence of Concini and Leonora over the Queen—Arrogance of Concini—Indignation of the King—A royal rupture—The King leaves Paris for Chantilly—Sully and the Queen—The letter—Anger of the King—Sully reconciles the King and Queen—Madame de Verneuil and the Duc de Guise—-Court gambling—Birth of the Duc d'Anjou—Betrothal of the Duc de Vendome and Mademoiselle de Mercoeur—Reluctance of the lady's family—Celebration of the marriage—Munificence of Henry—Arrival of Don Pedro de Toledo—His arrogance—Admirable rejoinder of the King—Object of the embassy—Passion of Henry for hunting—Embellishment of Paris—Eduardo Fernandez—The King's debts of honour—Despair of Madame de Verneuil—Defective policy—A bold stroke for a coronet—The fallen favourite.

Despite the presence of the pestilence the gaieties of the past winter had surpassed, alike in the Court and in the capital, all that had hitherto been witnessed in France. The profusion of the nobles, whom no foreign war compelled to disburse their revenues in arming their retainers, and in preparing themselves to maintain their dignity and rank in the eyes of a hostile nation, was unchecked and excessive; while, as we have already shown, the monarch felt no inclination to control an outlay by which they thus voluntarily crippled their resources.

The year 1607 commenced, with the exception of the fatal scourge which still existed in and about Paris, in the greatest abundance, and the most perfect peace. The Court celebrated the New Year at St. Germain-en-Laye, and on the following day proceeded to Fontainebleau, where during the careme-prenant[356] a ballet was danced, and several magnificent entertainments were given to their Majesties by the great nobles of the household. These festivities were, however, unfortunately interrupted by an event which created universal consternation and anxiety. The most glaring evil of the reign of Henri IV had long been the prevalence of duelling, which he had in the first instance neglected to discountenance; and which had, in consequence, reached an extreme that threatened the most serious results, not only to the principal personages of the kingdom, but even to those whose comparative insignificance in society should have shielded them from all participation in so iniquitous and senseless a practice. L'Etoile computes the number of individuals who lost their lives in these illicit encounters at several thousands; nor did the tardy edicts issued by the King produce a cessation of the custom. On the 4th of February, the Prince de Conde, conceiving himself aggrieved by some expression used by the Due de Nevers, sent him a challenge, to which the Duke instantly responded; and he was already on the ground watching the approach of his antagonist, when a company of the King's bodyguard arrived, who, in the name of his Majesty, forbade the conflict, and escorted the two quasi-combatants to the royal presence, where, "more in sorrow than in anger," Henry reprimanded both Princes; reminding them of their disobedience to his expressed commands, of the fatal example which their want of self-government would afford to their inferiors, and of the loss which the death of either party would have inflicted upon himself. He then more particularly addressed M. de Nevers, and reproached him severely for having evinced so little respect for the Blood Royal of France as to accept, under any circumstances, a challenge from a relative of his sovereign, who should have been sacred in his eyes.[357]

Whether the arguments of the King convinced the two nobles, or their loyalty sufficed to render them conscious of their error, is unimportant. Henry had the satisfaction of removing the misunderstanding between them, and from the royal closet they proceeded to the apartments of the Queen, in order to allay an anxiety which, from her friendship and affection for Madame de Nevers who was then absent on one of her estates, had been painfully great.

The expressed displeasure of the King at these encounters did not, however, as we have already stated, suffice to prevent their frequent occurrence; and on the 22d of the same month another hostile meeting took place between the Duc de Soubise[358] and M. de Boccal, which had nearly proved fatal to the former; but it having been explained to the monarch that the antagonist of M. de Soubise had long withstood the provocation of the Duke, declaring that he dare not raise his hand against one so nearly connected with the throne, and that he had not yielded until the impetuous and intemperate violence of his antagonist had left him no other resource, Henry, with his usual clemency, forgave the crime.[359]

In addition to these occurrences, which were moreover succeeded by others of the same description during the month, the anger of the King was excited by a discovery which he made of the infidelity of Madame de Moret. Indulgent to his own profligacy to a degree which rendered him insensible to his self-abasement, Henry was peculiarly alive to the degradation of sharing with a rival the affections, or perhaps it were more fitting to say the favours, of his mistresses. He readily forgot the fact that he had himself been the first to initiate them into the rudiments of vice—to induce them to abnegate their self-respect, and to brave the opinion of the world and their own reproaches—while he could not brook that they should reduce him to a level with one of his own subjects, and that they should so far emancipate themselves as to feel a preference for younger and more attractive men when they had been honoured by his notice. The dissolute monarch did not pause to reflect that with women the national proverb, il n'y a que le premier pas qui coute, is but too often realized, and that he was, in fact, the architect of his own mortification.

Madame de Moret had long been attached to the Prince de Joinville; who, young, reckless, and impetuous, returned her passion, and scarcely made any effort to conceal his rivalry with the monarch. Courtiers have, moreover, sharp eyes, and it was not long ere the King was apprised of the intrigue. Bassompierre relates that he hastened to warn the imprudent lovers of their danger, but that believing him to have some personal motive for his interference, they disregarded the caution;[360] and the fact of their mutual passion at length became so well authenticated, that Henry, whose pride rather than his heart was wounded by the levity of the Countess, reproached her in the most insulting terms with her misconduct.[361] Madame de Moret did not attempt to deny her attachment to the Prince, but excused herself by reminding the monarch that, honoured as she was by his preference, she could not forget that she was merely his mistress, and could anticipate no higher destiny, while M. de Joinville was prepared to make her his wife.

"In that case, Madame," said the King, "you are forgiven. I can permit my subjects to espouse my mistresses, but I cannot allow them to play the gallants to those ladies whom I have distinguished by my own favour. You shall not be disappointed in your expectations, and this marriage shall have my sanction without delay."

It can scarcely be doubted that this ready assent must have been no slight mortification to the vanity of Madame de Moret, while it is equally certain that it was perfectly sincere on the part of the King, although from a cause altogether independent of the Countess herself. In fact, the Prince de Joinville having previously rendered himself obnoxious to the monarch by his marked attentions to the Marquise de Verneuil, the latter was anxious to see him married, and thus to rid himself of a dangerous rival. Such an alliance must, moreover, as he at once felt, deeply wound the pride of the Guises, whom it was his interest to humble by every means in his power; and accordingly he hastened upon leaving Madame de Moret to summon the young Prince to his presence, and to insist upon the fulfilment of his promise.

Startled by so unexpected an order, M. de Joinville feigned a ready compliance, but on his dismissal from the royal closet he expressed his indignation in no measured terms, declaring that had any other than the sovereign proposed to him so disgraceful an alliance, whatever might have been his rank, he would have resented the insult upon the instant; while no sooner did the Duchess his mother become apprised of the circumstance, than she hastened to throw herself at the feet of the King, beseeching him rather to take her life than to subject her son to such dishonour.

"Rise, Madame," said Henry gravely; "yours is a petition which I cannot grant, as I never yet took the life of any woman, and have still to learn the possibility of doing so."

"A Guise, Sire," pursued the haughty Duchess, as she once more stood erect before him, "cannot marry the mistress of any man, even although that man should chance to be his monarch."

"Every man, Madame," retorted the King, "must pay the penalty of seeking to humiliate his sovereign, even although that man be a Guise."

"M. de Joinville, Sire, shall never become the husband of Jacqueline de Bueil."

"Neither, Madame," said the King angrily, "shall he ever become her gallant. This is not the first occasion upon which he has had the insolence to interpose between me and my favourites. I have not yet forgotten his intrigue with Madame de Verneuil; and if I pardoned him upon that occasion, it was not on his own account, but from respect for the relationship which exists between us. Neither, Madame, has it escaped my memory that the House of Guise endeavoured to wrest from me the crown of France; and, in short, finding myself so ill-requited for my indulgence, I am weary of exercising a lenity which has degenerated into weakness. Your son is at perfect liberty to marry my mistress, since he has seen fit to desire it, and he shall do so, or repent his obduracy in the Bastille, where he will have time and leisure to learn the respect which he owes to his sovereign."

"It is your Majesty who is wanting in respect to yourself," said the Duchess haughtily.

"Madame!" exclaimed the King; "do not give me cause to forget that you are my aunt. I can hear no more until you assume a tone better suited to our relative positions. You have heard my resolve, and may retire."

Thus abruptly dismissed, Madame de Guise withdrew, and hastened to apprise her son of the impending peril, upon which he escaped from the capital before the order issued for his arrest could be put into execution; while his relatives endeavoured by humility and submission to obtain his forgiveness. Henry, however, had been too deeply wounded, alike by the levity of the son and the overbearing haughtiness of the mother, to yield to their entreaties, and the only concession which he could be induced to make was a conditional pardon involving the perpetual exile of the culprit.[362]

Nor was the King, who at once discovered that he had been duped, less inclined to visit upon Madame de Moret the consequences of her falsehood, and he openly declared that she should also have been compelled to quit the country had she not been on the eve of becoming a mother.[363]

This event shortly afterwards took place, but, although during the following year Henry legitimated her son,[364] he ever afterwards treated her with the greatest coldness; nor did the birth of the child in any way affect her position, as had been the case with the Duchesse de Beaufort and the Marquise de Verneuil, the King contenting himself by sending to her a present of money and jewels, but evincing no disposition to raise her rank.

It would appear, moreover, that the indifference was mutual, as only a short time subsequently she encouraged the assiduities of the Comte de Sommerive, from whom, according to Sully, there could be no doubt that she did actually obtain a written promise of marriage; and the King was no sooner apprised of the circumstance than he expressed, as he had previously done in the case of the Prince de Joinville, his perfect willingness to consent to the alliance, merely desiring M. de Balagny,[365] a gentleman of his household upon whom he could rely, to watch the proceedings of the lovers, and to acquaint him with every particular, should he have cause to suspect that the intentions of the Count were equivocal. M. de Sommerive, however, who soon discovered that he was an object of espionnage, became so much exasperated that, having on one occasion encountered the royal confidant at a convenient moment for the purpose, he drew his sword and attacked him so vigorously that his intended victim was compelled to save himself by flight.

In this instance Henry, who had ceased to feel any interest in Madame de Moret, contented himself by reprimanding the culprit, branding him with the name of assassin, and finally exiling him to Lorraine, with strict orders not to leave that province without his express permission.

We will here terminate the history of the ex-favourite, who has already occupied only too much space. After this last adventure she ceased to make any figure at Court, her influence over the monarch having entirely ceased; and seven years subsequent to his death she became the wife of Rene du Bec, Marquis de Vardes, and the mother of two sons, the elder of whom, Francois Rene, Comte de Moret, was afterwards famous during the reign of Louis XIV under the title of Marquis de Vardes.[366]

The estrangement of the monarch from Madame de Moret, coupled with his increasing coldness towards the Marquise de Verneuil, once more at this period restored the unhappy Queen to a comparative peace of mind, which she was not, however, long fated to enjoy; as at the close of the year a new candidate for the royal favour presented herself in the person of Mademoiselle des Essarts.[367] This lady, who was a member of the household of the Comtesse de Beaumont-Harlay, had accompanied her mistress to England, whither M. de Beaumont-Harlay[368] had been accredited as ambassador; and on the return of her patroness to France she appeared in her suite at Court, where she instantly attracted the attention of the dissolute King. Her reign was happily a short one, and at the close of two years she retired with the title of Comtesse de Romorantin, having previously been privately married to the Archbishop of Rheims.[369]

We shall pass over in silence the other liaisons of the monarch, as they were too transitory greatly to affect the tranquillity of the Queen, until we are once more compelled to return to them in order to record his unhappy passion for the beautiful Princesse de Conde—a passion which at one period threatened to involve a European war.

On the 6th of April Marie de Medicis gave birth to her second son, who received the title of Duc d'Orleans, that duchy having always since the time of Philip VI been the appanage of a Prince of the Blood, or one of the first nobles of the kingdom. The public rejoicings were universal, and the satisfaction of the King without bounds. The little Prince was privately baptized by the Cardinal de Gondy, until the state ceremonies of his christening could take place; and on the 22d of the month he was invested by the sovereign with the insignia of St. Michael and the Holy Ghost, in the presence of the Cardinals, and the Commanders and Knights of those Orders, with great pomp; after which a banquet was given by the King in the great hall at Fontainebleau, and at nightfall the park was illuminated in all directions by immense bonfires, and a pyrotechnic display, which was witnessed by admiring and exulting thousands.

The intelligence which reached Paris on the following day that peace had been restored between the Pope and the Venetians, through the intervention of the French monarch; that the Papal excommunication which had been fulminated against that republic had been repealed, and a general absolution accorded, excited the enthusiasm of the French people to its greatest height. They augured from this fact a brilliant future for the little Prince, who had come into the world at the very moment when the great work had been achieved; and this feeling was shared by the august parents of the royal infant. So little can human foresight fathom the designs of the Almighty Disposer of all things! Men congratulated each other in the public street; and, forgetting the Huguenot origin of Henry, considered him only as the champion of the Romish faith; while they coupled his name and that of the Queen with every endearing epithet of which they were susceptible.

The remainder of the summer was occupied by the monarch in the embellishment of the capital, in high play,[370] and in his rapidly-waning passion for Madame de Verneuil; while the Court resided alternately at Fontainebleau and St. Germain; the Queen confining herself more and more to the society of her children and her immediate favourites, listening with jealous avidity to every rumour of infidelity on the part of her royal consort, and occasionally renewing those unhappy differences by which the whole of their married life had been embittered.

The kingdom was at peace, but anarchy still reigned within the walls of the palace. It is true that the advancing age of the monarch appeared to offer a sufficient guarantee for his moral reformation, but the daily experience of the Queen sufficed to convince her that she must never hope for domestic happiness; and this conviction doubtless tended to place her more thoroughly in the power of those treacherous advisers who, in order to strengthen their own influence, did not hesitate to exaggerate (where exaggeration was possible) the painful errors of her husband. She saw herself idolized by the people, who regarded her with earnest affection as the mother of two Princes whom they looked upon as pledges for the safety and prosperity of France, while she found herself at the same time an object of indifference to the monarch whom they were destined to succeed; and who, while he lavished upon his children incessant tokens of tenderness, sacrificed her personal happiness to every passing fancy, even at the time when he affected to reproach her with a coldness of which he was himself the cause.

Again we fearlessly repeat that the historians of the time have not done Marie de Medicis justice. They expatiate upon her faults, they enlarge upon her weaknesses, they descant upon her errors; but they touch lightly and carelessly upon the primary influences which governed her after-life. She arrived in her new kingdom young, hopeful, and happy—young, and her youth was blighted by neglect; hopeful, and her hopes were crushed by unkindness; happy, and her happiness was marred by inconstancy and insult. Her woman-nature, plastic as it might have been under more fortunate circumstances, became indurated to harshness; and it is not they who strive to work upon the most solid marble who should complain if the chisel with which they pursue their purpose become blunted in the process.

On the 5th of September of this year died M. de Bellievre, the Chancellor of France, whose probity and justice had rendered him dear to the people, in whose eyes the withdrawal of his Court favour only tended to enhance his valuable qualities. He was, as a natural consequence, succeeded by Brulart de Sillery, who had already superseded him as Keeper of the Seals; and his body was attended to the church of St. Germain-l'Auxerrois by a vast concourse of the citizens.

His demise was, in November, followed by that of the Cardinal de Lorraine,[371] who, with the usual superstition of the age, was declared to have been bewitched because his malady had baffled the skill of his physicians; while that which renders the circumstance the more melancholy, is the fact that the individual accused of his destruction was burned alive at Nancy, after having been previously subjected to a course of lingering torture.[372]

The Court meanwhile, according to Sully,[373] was more dissipated than it had been during any previous winter since the arrival of Marie de Medicis in France; while the account given of the state of morals throughout the capital by L'Etoile, is one which will not bear transcription. The new year (1608) commenced in the same manner. Ballets were danced both at the Louvre and at the residences of the great nobles. The ex-Queen Marguerite gave an entertainment in honour of the birth of the young Prince, which terminated with a running at the ring, where the prizes were distributed by herself and her successor; and, finally, the King commanded that an especial ballet for the amusement of the Due de Montpensier, to whose daughter he was about to affiance the infant Duc d'Orleans, should be executed by the Duc de Vendome, the Marquis de Bassompierre, the Baron de Thermes, and M. de Carmail, the four nobles of the Court who were distinguished by the appellation of "les Dangereux." The august party accordingly proceeded to the hotel of that Prince, who was then nearly at the point of death, having languished throughout two years in a low decline which had gradually sapped his existence; but notwithstanding the state of debility to which he was reduced, the Duke left his bed, and received his royal and noble guests in the hall wherein the ballet was performed.[374] It may be doubted, however, whether M. de Montpensier did not make this supreme effort in consequence of the proposed alliance, and his anxiety to evince to their Majesties his sense of the honour which was about to be conferred upon himself and his family, rather than from any amusement which he could hope to derive from such an exhibition. Be that, however, as it may, the most magnificent preparations had been made for the reception of Henry and his Queen, who were met at the foot of the great staircase by the Duchess, followed by her women, and escorted by a score of pages bearing lighted tapers, and thus conducted to the canopied dais beneath which their ponderous chairs, covered with cloth of gold, had been placed, with low stools behind and on either side of the throne, for the use of such of the other guests as were privileged to seat themselves in the presence of the sovereign.

The ballet, save as regarded the dying condition of the ducal host, was executed under the happiest auspices. The King, to whom the proposed marriage of the two children was agreeable under every aspect, was in one of his most condescending and complacent moods; while Marie de Medicis, whose affection for all her offspring amounted to passion, was radiant with delight as she remembered that by the will of the Duke all his property and estates devolved upon the young Prince, even should his betrothed bride[375] not live to become his wife.[376]

On the following day the affiancing, of which this entertainment had been the prelude, took place with great solemnity. The most costly presents were exchanged, not only by the betrothed children, but also by their royal and noble relatives. This ceremony, owing to the failing health of the Duke, was also performed at the Hotel Montpensier, and was succeeded by amusements of every description; among which those prepared for the occasion at the Arsenal by Sully afforded the most marked gratification to their Majesties. The minister had caused a spacious theatre to be constructed, in which the Italian actors who had been summoned to France by the Queen gave their representations. This pit or salle de spectacle was, as he himself informs us, arranged amphitheatrically, while above were galleries divided into separate boxes, each approached by a different staircase and entered by a different door. Two of these galleries were reserved entirely for the ladies who were admitted to the performance, and no man, upon any pretext whatever, was permitted to enter them; an arrangement which appears to be strikingly at variance with the lax morality of the time. So resolved, nevertheless, was Sully to enforce this restriction, that he adds with a gravity curious enough upon such a subject: "This was one of my regulations which I would not suffer to be violated, and of which I did not consider it beneath me personally to compel the observance." [377]

To impress, moreover, upon his readers the strength of this determination, he relates an anecdote of which we cannot resist the transcription:

"One day," he says, "when a very fine ballet was represented in this hall, I perceived a man leading a lady by the hand, with whom he was about to enter the women's gallery. He was a foreigner, and I moreover easily recognized by his sallow complexion to what country he belonged. 'Monsieur,' I said to him, 'you will be good enough to look for another door; for I do not think that with your skin you can hope to pass for a lady.' 'My lord,' replied he in very bad French, 'when you ascertain who I am, you will not, I can assure you, refuse to have the politeness of permitting me to enter with these fair and lovely ladies, however dark I may be. My name is Pimentello; I am well received by his Majesty, and have frequently the honour of playing with him.' This was true, and too true. This foreigner, of whom I had frequently heard, had won immense sums from the King. 'How, ventre de ma vie! I exclaimed, affecting extreme anger; 'you are then, I perceive, that great glutton of a Portuguese who daily wins the money of the King. Pardieu, you are by no means welcome here, as I neither affect nor will receive such guests.' He was about to reply, but I thrust him back, saying at the same time, 'Go, go; find another entrance, for your jargon will fail to make any impression upon me.' The King having subsequently inquired of him if he had not thought the ballet magnificent and admirably executed, Pimentello replied that he was anxious to have witnessed it, but that he had been encountered at the door by his finance minister, who had met him with a negative and shut him out; an adventure which so much amused the monarch that he not only laughed heartily himself, but made the whole Court participators in his amusement." [378]

Banquets, running at the ring, and balls in which the Queen occasionally condescended to join, varied the entertainments; which were, however, suddenly terminated by the death of the Duc de Montpensier, which occurred on the 28th of the month; and so much was the King affected by his demise, that he forbade all the customary diversions during the ensuing Carnival.

Nothing could exceed, save in the case of a sovereign, the splendour of the funeral ceremonies observed after the Duke's decease. He had no sooner expired than his body was carried into a hall richly hung with tapestry, and surrounded by seats and benches covered with cloth of gold, elaborately embroidered with fleurs-de-lis, intended for the accommodation of the prelates, nobles, knights, and gentlemen of the Duke's household who were appointed to watch beside the corpse. The body lay upon a state bed covered with cloth of gold which swept the floor, and was bordered with ermine. He wore his ducal robes, with a coronet, and the great collar of St. Michael; and had his white-gloved hands crossed upon his breast. At the foot of the bier stood a small table upon which was a massive silver crucifix; and near it a second supporting a vase of holy water. In this state the deceased Duke remained during eight days; the officers of his household waiting upon him in the same manner, and with the same ceremonies as when he was alive. A prelate said the grace; the water, in which while in existence the Prince had been accustomed to lave his hands previously to commencing a meal, was presented to his vacant chair; the different courses were placed upon the table by the proper officers; a silver goblet was prepared at the same moment in which he had formerly been in the habit of taking his first draught; and, finally, the same prelate uttered a thanksgiving, to which he added a "De profundis," and the prayer for the dead; when the food that had been served up was distributed to the poor.

At the termination of the eight days the funeral service was performed at Notre Dame, in the presence of the Knights of the Holy Ghost, all wearing their collars. The chief mourners were the Prince de Conde and the Comte de Soissons, the cousins of the deceased Duke; and his funeral oration was delivered by M. de Fenouillet, Bishop of Montpellier. The body was then conveyed to Champigny in Poitou, where the Duke was laid to rest with his ancestors.[379]

Having strictly forbidden all public festivities, Henry removed the Court to Fontainebleau; and Marguerite, whose unblushing libertinism was a byword in Paris, seized the moment to erect an almshouse and convent upon a portion of the grounds of her hotel. It was stated that the ex-Queen during her residence at Usson, where, as we have already seen, her career was one of the most degrading profligacy, had made a vow that should she ever be permitted to revisit Paris, she would support a certain number of monks who should daily sing the praises of the Deity; and she accordingly gave to the chapel attached to the convent the name of the Chapel of Praise, while the house itself was designated the Monastery of the Holy Trinity. It was no sooner built than it was given by the foundress to the reformed and bare-footed Fathers of St. Augustine; but after having solicited in their favour various privileges which were accorded by the Sovereign-Pontiff, she dispossessed them in the year 1613, and established in their place the Augustine Fathers of the Congregation of Bourges.

Meanwhile the influence of Concini and his wife over the mind of the Queen unhappily increased with time, until the arrogance of the former became so great that he had the insolence to enter the lists at a grand tilting at the ring which was publicly held in the Rue St. Antoine in the presence of the monarch and his Court; a piece of presumption which was rendered still more unpalatable to Henry by the fact that the Italian, who was well skilled in such exercises, bore away the prize for which the whole of his own nobility had contended.

So arrogant, indeed, had he become, and so inflated with the consciousness of wealth—Marie de Medicis having been lavish even beyond her means both to his wife and himself—that he entered into a negotiation for the purchase of La Ferte, a property estimated at between two and three hundred thousand crowns; and he no sooner ascertained that the Duchesse de Sully had waited upon the Queen to entreat of her Majesty to forbid the transfer, as such an acquisition made by an individual who was generally known to be penniless only a few years previously would necessarily excite the public disaffection towards herself, than he had the audacity to proceed to the Arsenal and to upbraid that lady for her interference in the most unmeasured and insulting terms, declaring that he was independent both of the King of France and of his subjects, whatever might be their sex and rank; and that whoever thwarted him in his projects might live to rue the day in which they braved his anger.

This intemperance having come to the ears of the King, his indignation was excessive; but, as on previous occasions, he lacked the moral courage to assert his dignity; and satisfied himself by bitter complaints to Sully of the fatal hold which her two Italian attendants had secured upon the affections of the Queen, and by replying to the reproaches of Marie upon the subject of his new attachment for Charlotte des Essarts, and the continued insolence of Madame de Verneuil, with vehement upbraidings on the vassalage in which she lived to the indecent caprices and shameless extortions of a waiting-woman and her husband.

Marie de Medicis, who had hoped that the rank in her household which had been conceded to Leonora would protect her for the future against allusions to the obscurity of her origin, was greatly incensed by the tone of contempt still maintained by the King whenever he made any allusion either to Leonora or Concini; and eventually these recriminations attained to such a height that Henry abruptly quitted the Louvre (where the delicate health of his royal consort had induced him to establish his temporary residence), and proceeded to Chantilly, without taking leave of her. On his way, however, he alighted at the Arsenal, where he informed Sully of the reason of his sudden departure; and the minister became so much alarmed at this unequivocal demonstration of displeasure on the part of the monarch, that he resolved not to lose a moment in advising the Queen to some concession which might cause the King to return to the capital. After the mid-day meal he accordingly repaired to the Louvre, accompanied only by a secretary who was to await him in an antechamber, and made his way to the apartments of Marie. On reaching the saloon adjoining the private closet of the Queen, he found Madame Concini seated at the door with her head buried in her hands, evidently absorbed in thought. She started up, however, when he addressed her; and in reply to his request that she would announce him to her royal mistress, she replied that she would do so willingly, although she apprehended that her Majesty would not receive him, as she had refused entrance to herself. She had, however, no sooner raised the tapestry, and scratched upon the door, than Marie, on learning who was without, desired that M. de Sully should be instantly admitted. When the Duke entered he found the Queen seated at a table, busily engaged in writing; and as he approached her with the customary obeisance, she hastily motioned to him to place himself upon a stool immediately in front of her.

"You are right welcome, M. le Ministre," she said in a tone that was not altogether steady, although she struggled to suppress all outward emotion. "You are doubtless already apprised that the King has withdrawn from the capital in anger, but you have yet to learn that he has left me no whit more satisfied than himself. I was unprepared for so abrupt a departure; and as I had still much to say to him on the subject of our disagreement, I find myself compelled to the exercise of my clerkly skill, and am now occupied in telling him in writing all that I had left unsaid. There is the letter," she continued with a bitter smile, as she threw the ample scroll across the table; "read it, and tell me if I have not more than sufficient cause to consider myself both aggrieved and outraged."

"Madame," said the incorruptible minister, when he had perused the document thus submitted to him, "you must pardon me if I venture to declare that you must never suffer that letter to meet the eye of your royal consort: it contains matter to induce your eternal separation."

"Can you deny one assertion which I have made?" demanded the Queen impatiently.

"I sympathize in all the trials and troubles of your Majesty," was the evasive reply. "I would leave no effort untried to terminate them; a fact of which you have long, I trust, Madame, felt convinced; and thus I cannot see you about to wilfully destroy every chance of happiness, without imploring of you to reflect deeply and calmly before you take so extreme a measure as that which you now contemplate. The King is already incensed against you; and if spoken words have thus angered him, I dare not contemplate the consequences of such as these before me, written hours after your contention. I therefore beseech you to suppress this letter; and both for your own sake, and for that of the French nation, rather to seek a reconciliation with His Grace your husband than to increase the ill-feeling which so unhappily exists."

"You make no allowance for me, Monsieur, as a woman and a wife; you only argue with the Queen."

"Madame," persisted Sully, "in this instance it is rather to the woman and the wife that I address myself than to the Queen. As a woman, the bitterness and invective of this missive," and he laid his spread hand emphatically upon the paper, "would suffice to cover you with blame and to deprive you of sympathy, while as a mother it would authorize your separation from your children. Let me entreat of you therefore to forego your purpose."

Marie de Medicis sat silent for a few moments, and then making a violent effort over herself, she said slowly: "I will in so far follow your counsel, M. le Duc, that I will destroy this letter, although the saints bear witness that it has cost me both time and care to prepare it, but I will yield no further. I am weary of being made the puppet of an unfaithful husband and his band of unblushing favourites, who receive, each in succession, some high-sounding title by which they are enabled to thrust themselves and their shame upon me in the very halls of the palace. I must and will tell the King this."

"Then, Madame, if such be unfortunately your decision," said her listener, "at least let me urge you to do it in gentler terms."

"I am in no humour to temporize."

Sully made no reply.

"Do not wrap yourself up in silence, Monsieur," exclaimed the Queen after waiting in vain for his reply. "I believe that you wish to serve me, and you cannot better do so than by putting these unpalatable truths into a less repulsive form. Here are the means at hand, but, mark me, I will not suffer one particular to be omitted."

Under this somewhat difficult restriction the minister proceeded to obey her command, but she argued upon every sentence, and cavilled at every paragraph, which tended to soften the harsher features of the letter. At length, however, the task was completed, and nothing remained to be effected save its transcription by the Queen. The letter was long and elaborate, as Sully had skilfully contrived to terminate every reproach by some reasoning which could not fail to touch the feelings of the King. Thus, after upbraiding her husband with his perpetual infidelities, Marie was made to say that if she complained, it was less for herself, than because, in addition to her anxiety to be the sole possessor of his heart, she could not coldly contemplate the injury which he inflicted upon his person and dignity by becoming the rival of his own subjects, and thus compromising his kingly character; and that if she insisted with vehemence upon the exile of Madame de Verneuil, her excuse must be found in the fact that in no other way could her peace and honour be secured, or the welfare of her children be rendered sure—those children of whom he was the father as well as the sovereign, and whom she would cause to fall at his feet to implore compassion for their mother. She then reminded him of the numerous promises which he had made to her that he would cease to give her cause of complaint, and terminated the missive by calling God to witness that should he still be willing to fulfil them, she would, on her side, renounce all desire for vengeance upon those by whom she had been so deeply, wronged.

Certain, however, it is that, even with these modifications, the letter gave serious offence to Henry, who, shortly after its receipt, wrote to apprise Sully of what he denominated the impertinence of his wife, but declared that he was less incensed against her than against the individual by whom the epistle had been dictated, as the style was not hers, and that he had consequently discovered the agency of a third person, whose identity he left it to Sully to ascertain, as he had resolved never again either to serve or even to see him, be he whom he might, so long as he had life.

With a truth and frankness which did him honour, the finance minister, despite this threat, did not hesitate when subsequently urged upon the subject by the King to admit the authorship of the obnoxious document, and in support of his assertion to place in the hands of Henry the original draft which he had retained. On comparing this with the autograph letter of the Queen, however, Sully at once perceived that she had been unable to repress her anger sufficiently to adhere to his advice, and that the interpolations were by no means calculated to advance her interests.[380] It was evident, nevertheless, that much of the King's indignation had subsided, and that the delicate health of his royal consort was not without its influence over his mind. Sully adroitly profited by this circumstance to impress upon Henry the danger of any agitation to the Queen, whose impressionable nature occasioned constant solicitude to her physicians, and reminded him that her late violence had been principally induced by the rumours which had reached her of a liaison between Madame de Verneuil and the Due de Guise, an indignity to his own person which she had declared herself unable to brook with patience. In short, so zealously and so successfully did Sully exert himself, that he at length induced the monarch to return to the Louvre, and the Queen to disclaim all intention of exciting his displeasure, in which latter attempt he was greatly aided by being enabled to confide to her that instant measures were to be taken for the disgrace of the Marquise, could it be proved that her friendship with the Duc de Guise had exceeded the limits of propriety.

In the beginning of March the Court removed to Fontainebleau, where, while awaiting the accouchement of the Queen, Henry indulged in the most reckless gaming; nor did he pursue this vice in a kingly spirit, for even his devoted panegyrist Perefixe informs us that at this period he knew not how to answer those who reproached his royal pupil with too great a love for cards and dice, of itself a taste little suited to a great and powerful sovereign; and that, moreover, he was an unpleasant player, eager for gain, timid when the stake was a high one, and ill-tempered when he was a loser.[381] In support of this reluctant testimony, Bassompierre relates that, being anxious to assist at the opening of the States of Lorraine in compliance with the invitation of the Duke, he solicited the permission of Henry to that effect on two or three different occasions, but as he always played on the side of the King, and universally with great success, he was constantly refused.

Resolved to carry his point, however, the spoiled courtier at length set forth without any leave-taking; a fact which was no sooner ascertained by the monarch than he despatched two of the exempts of his guard to arrest him and bring him back. This they did without difficulty, as Bassompierre did not travel at night; but as the gallant Marquis had no ambition to be conveyed to Fontainebleau in the guise of a prisoner, he despatched a letter to M. de Villeroy requesting to be liberated from the presence of his captors, and pledging himself to return instantly to Court. On his arrival the King laughed heartily at the idea of his disappointment, which he, however, lightened by pledging himself that in ten days he should be left at liberty to depart.[382]

On the 25th of April Marie de Medicis became the mother of a third son, upon whom, after some contestation between his illustrious parents, was bestowed the title of Duc d'Anjou. The Queen was desirous that he should be called Prince of Navarre, but Henry preferred the former designation, from the fact that it had been that of many of the French Princes who had been sovereigns of Jerusalem and Sicily.[383] The birth of another Prince to their beloved sovereign filled up the measure of joy in France; the citizens of Paris made costly gifts to the Queen, and the circumstance of the infant having come into the world on the anniversary of St. Louis increased the general enthusiasm.[384] As the convalescence of the royal invalid was less rapid upon this than on previous occasions, the Court remained during the spring and a portion of the summer at Fontainebleau, where every species of amusement was exhausted by the courtiers. Once only, at the beginning of May, the King resided for a few days in the capital, and on his return Marie manifested such undisguised satisfaction that he accorded to her the sum of twelve thousand crowns for the embellishment of her chateau at Monceaux.

So early as the year 1598, during the journey of the sovereign to Brittany, a marriage had been arranged between his' son, the Duc de Vendome, and Mademoiselle de Mercoeur,[385] but the mother and grandmother of the young lady had succeeded in inspiring her with such a hatred of the legitimated Prince, that she would not allow his name to be mentioned in her presence; and when she ascertained that the monarch had resolved upon the fulfilment of the contract, she withdrew to the Capuchin Convent, declaring that sooner than become the wife of M. de Vendome she would take the veil. The Duchesse de Mercoeur and her mother had been anxious to marry the young heiress to the Prince de Conde, or failing in this project, to some relative of their own, in order to retain her large possessions in the family; but the King had resolved upon securing them to his son by enforcing the promise made by the deceased Duke. He accordingly adopted conciliatory measures by which he succeeded in effecting his object, and before the conclusion of the rejoicings on the birth of the infant Prince, the marriage was finally celebrated in the chapel of Fontainebleau with all the pomp and magnificence of which the ceremony was susceptible, while the King appeared beside his son at the altar blazing with jewels of inestimable price, and joined in the festivities consequent upon the alliance with a zest and enjoyment which were the theme of general comment.

The arrival of Don Pedro de Toledo,[386] the ambassador of Philip III of Spain, at this precise juncture gave further occasion for that display of splendour in which Henry had latterly delighted, and after his public reception at Fontainebleau the Court removed to Paris, where the ambassador had been sumptuously lodged at the Hotel de Gondy. His arrogance, however, soon disgusted the French King; nor did he hesitate to exhibit the same unbecoming hauteur towards his kinswoman the Queen, who having despatched a nobleman of her household to welcome him to France in that character, was informed by her envoy that the only answer which he returned to the compliment was conveyed in the remark that crowned heads had no relatives; they had only subjects.

The sole occasion upon which he laid aside his morgue, and then to all appearance involuntarily, was while driving through the streets of the capital in the carriage of the King. He had previously visited Paris, and as he contrasted its present magnificence with the squalor, filth, and disorder which it had formerly exhibited, he could not suppress an exclamation of astonishment. "Why should you be surprised, Monsieur?" demanded Henry; "when you last saw my good city of Paris, the father of the family did not inhabit it; and now that he is here to watch over his children, they prosper as you see." [387]

The object of this embassy was kept a profound secret; some historians assert that it was undertaken with a view to effect a marriage between the Dauphin and the Infanta of Spain, while others lean to the belief that Philip had instructed Don Pedro to endeavour to prevail upon Henry to abandon his alliance with the Dutch. Whatever were its motive, the ambassador, who had reached Paris on the 7th of July, quitted the capital on the 22nd of the same month, having only succeeded in irritating the King by his overbearing and supercilious demeanour.[388]

It would appear that during the present year Henri IV indulged his passion for field sports to such an excess as tended seriously to alarm those who were anxious for his preservation; and it indeed seems as though, at this period, his leisure hours were nearly divided between his two favourite diversions of hunting and high play. Sully informs us, however, that the King busied himself with the embellishments of Fontainebleau, and in erecting the Place Dauphine at Paris; but adds that these great works, which were necessary to the convenience of the people, might have been carried much further if the monarch would have followed his advice and been less profuse in his personal expenditure, particularly as regarded his gambling transactions. He advances, as a proof of this assertion, that he was called upon on one occasion to deliver to Eduardo Fernandez, a Portuguese banker (who, according to Bassompierre, had made a visit of speculation to the French Court, and who unhesitatingly provided the nobles with large sums, either on security or at immense interest), the enormous amount of thirty-four thousand pistoles, for which the reckless monarch had become his debtor. "I frequently received similar orders," he proceeds to say, "for two or three thousand pistoles, and a great many others for less considerable sums." [389]

It is scarcely doubtful that the ennui occasioned by the waning passion of Henri IV for Madame de Verneuil at this period induced him, even more than formerly, to seek amusement and occupation at the gaming-table, where he was emulated by his profuse and licentious nobles, while even his Queen and the ladies of the Court entered with avidity into the exciting pastime. We have frequent record of the habitual high play of Marie de Medicis, who found in it a solace for her sick-room and a diversion from her domestic annoyances, and thus the dangerous propensity of the monarch was heightened by the presence of the loveliest women of the land and the charm and fascination of wit and intellect.

Madame de Verneuil was in despair; the coveted sceptre was sliding from within her grasp, and with the ill-judged hope of regaining the affections of her royal lover by exciting his jealousy, she encouraged the attention of the Due de Guise, who, undismayed by the previous attempt of his brother to divert the affections of another of the royal favourites and its unfortunate result, at length openly avowed himself the suitor of the brilliant Marquise, and even promised to make her his wife; while the scandalous chroniclers of the time do not hesitate to affirm that the Prince de Joinville himself had previously done the same, but that his proverbial fickleness had protected him from so gross a mesalliance.

In the case of the Duke, however, the affair wore a more serious aspect; and so earnest did he appear in his professions that Madame de Verneuil, anxious at once to secure an illustrious alliance and to revenge herself upon the monarch, caused the banns of marriage between the Prince and herself to be published with some slight alteration in their respective names, which did not, however, suffice to deceive those who had an interest in subverting her project; and the fact was accordingly communicated to the King, upon whom it produced an effect entirely opposite to that which had been contemplated by the vanity of the lady, who had been clever enough to procure from M. de Guise a written promise similar to that which she had formerly extorted from the monarch. Four years previously the knowledge of such a perfidy on her part would have overwhelmed Henry with anxiety, jealousy, and grief, but his passion for the Marquise had, as we have seen, long been on the decline, and his only feeling was one of indignation and displeasure. To the Marquise herself he simply expressed his determined and unalterable opposition to the alliance, but to the Duke he was far less lenient, reminding him of the former offences of himself and his family, and forbidding him to pursue a purpose so distasteful to all those who had his honour at heart This was a fatal blow to Madame de Verneuil, and one which she was never destined to overcome. Clever as she was, she had suffered herself to forget that youth is not eternal, and that passion is even more evanescent than time; and thus, by a last impotent effort to assert a supremacy to which she could no longer advance any claim, she only succeeded in extinguishing in the heart of the King the last embers of a latent and expiring attachment.[390]

FOOTNOTES:

[356] The careme-prenant includes the three days which precede Ash-Wednesday.

[357] L'Etoile, vol. iii. pp. 411, 412.

[358] Benjamin de Rohan, Duc de Soubise, was the grandson of Jean de Parthenay-Soubise, and the son of Rene-Rohan. He was a zealous supporter of the reformed faith, and was present at several sieges; but becoming dissatisfied with the citizens of La Rochelle, with whom he took refuge in 1622, he passed over to England, to solicit assistance; a proceeding which compelled the French Court to declare him guilty of lese-majeste, and he subsequently refused to return to his own country when a general amnesty was proclaimed.

[359] L'Etoile, vol. iii. pp. 414, 415.

[360] Memoires, p. 57.

[361] Saint-Edme, vol. ii. p. 238.

[362] Saint-Edme, vol. ii. pp. 239, 240. L'Etoile, vol. iii. p. 360. Amours du Grand Alcandre, p. 49.

[363] Bassompierre, Mem. p. 51.

[364] Antoine de Bourbon, Comte de Moret, the son of Henri IV and Madame de Moret, was legitimated in 1608, and was killed during the subsequent reign at the battle of Castelnaudary, while serving under the Duc de Montmorency.

[365] Damin de Montluc, Seigneur de Balagny, son of Jean, Prince de Cambray, and of Renee de Clermont de Bussy d'Amboise. He was one of the most confidential friends of the King.

[366] Saint-Edme, vol. ii. pp. 241, 242.

[367] Charlotte, daughter of Francois des Essarts, Seigneur de Sautour, Equerry of the King's Stable, and of his second wife, Charlotte de Harlay de Chanvallon.

[368] The Comte Christophe de Beaumont-Harlay, Governor of Orleans. He died in 1615.

[369] Louis de Lorraine, Cardinal de Guise, son of Henri, Due de Guise, who was killed at the States of Blois. He obtained a dispensation from the Pope to effect his marriage with Mademoiselle des Essarts. He was a warlike prelate; and his death, which took place at Saintes in 1621, was caused by the extreme fatigue that he underwent during the campaign of Guienne, and at the siege of Saint-Jean-d'Angely, whither he accompanied Louis XIII.

[370] Bassompierre, Mem. p. 50.

[371] Charles, Cardinal de Lorraine, Bishop of Metz and Strasbourg, and Abbot of St. Victor-les-Paris. The Cardinal de Givry succeeded him in the see of Metz, having the Marquis de Verneuil as his coadjutor, and Leopold of Austria replaced him as Bishop of Strasbourg, having been elected to that dignity by the chapter; while the Protestants named George, Margrave of Brandenburg, administrator to that see, which caused great dissension between the two concurrents, until a conciliation was effected through the good offices of Duke Frederic of Wuertemberg, who induced them to enter into a truce for fifteen years, during which period they divided between them the revenues of the benefice, Leopold of Austria retaining the title of bishop.

[372] Mercure Francais, 1607, P-228. L'Etoile, vol. iii. pp. 437, 438.

[373] Memoires, vol. vii. p. 7. L'Etoile, vol. iii. pp. 417, 418.

[374] Bassompierre, Mem. p. 51.

[375] Marie de Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Montpensier, who, after the decease of the Duc d'Orleans, married (in 1626) Gaston Jean Baptiste de France.

[376] Bassompierre, Mem. p. 51.

[377] Sully, Mem. vol. vii. p. 8.

[378] Sully, Mem. vol. vii. pp. 8, 9.

[379] Mercure Francais, 1608, p. 231. L'Etoile, vol. iii. pp. 444, 445.

[380] Sully, Mem. vol. vii. pp. 25-28.

[381] Perefixe, vol. ii. pp. 463, 464.

[382] Bassompierre, Mem. pp. 50, 51.

[383] Gaston Jean Baptiste de France, originally named Duc d'Anjou, and subsequently Duc d'Orleans, died in 1660. Before his birth, Henri IV declared his intention of making him a churchman, and causing him to be entitled Cardinal de France.

[384] Mercure Francais, 1608, p. 231. Sully, Mem. vol. vii. p. 37. L'Etoile, vol. iii. p. 471.

[385] Mademoiselle de Mercocur was the only daughter and heiress of Philippe Emmanuel de Lorraine, Duc de Mercocur, the brother of Louise de Lorraine, Queen of Henri III. By that monarch he was appointed Governor of Brittany, but in 1589 he revolted against him, and persisted in his rebellion until 1598, when he entered into a treaty with Henri IV, by which he bound himself to bestow the hand of his daughter, and the reversion of his government, upon Cesar de Vendome, a condescension by which he subsequently felt himself so much disgraced that he withdrew from the Court and engaged in the war of Hungary. Pining, however, to see once more his wife and daughter, he was on his way to France for that purpose, when he was attacked by fever at Nuremberg, where he expired in March 1602, at the age of forty-three years.

[386] Don Pedro de Toledo, Constable of Castile, and general of the galleys of Naples, was a relative of Marie de Medicis, whose grandfather, the Comte de Medicis, had married Eleonora de Toledo, the daughter of the Viceroy of Naples. He was, moreover, a grandee of Spain, and one of the most confidential friends of Philip III.

[387] Bonnechose, vol. i. p. 445. Perefixe, vol. ii. p. 564.

[388] L'Etoile, vol. iii. pp. 474-477. Mercure Francais, 1608, p. 232. Daniel, vol. vii. p. 488.

[389] Memoires, vol. vii. pp. 72-74.

[390] Dreux du Radier, vol. vi, p. 104.



CHAPTER VIII

1609

Death of the Grand Duke of Tuscany—The Queen's ballet—Mademoiselle de Montmorency—Description of her person—She is betrothed to Bassompierre—Indignation of the Duc de Bouillon—Contrast between the rivals—The Duc de Bellegarde excites the curiosity of the King—The nymph of Diana—The rehearsal—Passion of the King for Mademoiselle de Montmorency—The royal gout—Interposition of the Duc de Roquelaure—Firmness of the Connetable—The ducal gout—Postponement of the marriage—Diplomacy of Henry—The sick-room—An obedient daughter—Henry resolves to prevent the marriage—The King and the courtier—Lip-deep loyalty—Henry offers the hand of Mademoiselle de Montmorency to the Prince de Conde—The regal pledge—The Prince de Conde consents to espouse Mademoiselle de Montmorency—Invites Bassompierre to his betrothal—Royal tyranny—A cruel pleasantry—The betrothal—Court festivities—Happiness of the Queen—Royal presents to the bride—The ex-Queen's ball—Jealousy of the Prince de Conde—Indignation of the Queen—Henry revenges himself upon M. de Conde—Madame de Conde retires from the Court—The King insists on her return—The Prince de Conde feigns compliance—The Prince and Princess escape to the Low Countries—The news of their evasion reaches Fontainebleau—Birth of a Princess—Unpleasant surprise—Henry betrays his annoyance to the Queen—He assembles his ministers—He resolves to compel the return of the Princess to France—Conflicting counsels—M. de Praslin is despatched to Brussels—Embarrassment of the Archduke Albert—He refuses an asylum to M. de Conde, who proceeds to Milan—The Princess remains at Brussels—She is honourably entertained—Interference of the Queen—Philip of Spain promises his protection to the Prince de Conde—He is invited to return to Brussels—The Marquis de Coeuvres endeavours to effect the return of the Prince to France—His negotiation fails—Madame de Conde is placed under surveillance—Her weariness of the Court of Brussels—The Duc de Montmorency desires her return to Paris—M. de Coeuvres is authorized to effect her escape from Brussels—The plot prospers—Indiscretion of the King—The Queen informs the Spanish minister of the conspiracy—Madame de Conde is removed to the Archducal palace—Mortification of the King—The French envoys expostulate with the Archduke, who remains firm—Henry resolves to declare war against Spain and Flanders—Fresh negotiations—The King determines to head the army in person—Marie de Medicis becomes Regent of France—She is counselled by Concini to urge her coronation—Reluctance of the King to accede to her request—He finally consents—"The best husband in the world"—Fatal prognostics—Signs in the heavens—The Cure of Montargis—The Papal warning—The Cardinal Barberino—The Sultan's message—Suspicious circumstances—Supineness of the Austrian Cabinet—Prophecy of Anne de Comans—Her miserable fate—The astrologer Thomassin—The Bearnais noble—The Queen's dream—Royal presentiments—The hawthorn of the Louvre—Distress of Bassompierre—Expostulation of the King—Melancholy forebodings.

In the year upon which we are now about to enter the subject of our biography occupies, unfortunately, but a small space, destined as it was to give birth to the most violent and the most dangerous passion of the whole life of Henri IV, and that which left the most indelible stain upon his memory, both as a man and as a monarch.

On the 7th of February the Court went into mourning for the Grand Duke of Tuscany, the uncle of the Queen, to whom she was ardently attached, and all the Carnival amusements were consequently suspended, but not before the Queen had resolved upon the performance of the ballet which she had previously refused to sanction, when her royal consort had proposed as one of its performers the Comtesse de Moret, his late favourite. The rehearsal of this entertainment took place on the 16th of January, and the nymphs of Diana were represented by the twelve reigning beauties of the Court, among whom the most lovely was Charlotte Marguerite de Montmorency[391]. So extraordinary, indeed, were her personal attractions, combined with a modesty of demeanour more than unusual at the Court in that age, that even the most experienced of the great nobles were compelled to confess that they had never heretofore seen any person who could compete with her. "The purity of her complexion," says Dreux du Radier, quoting from one of the old chroniclers, "was admirable; her eyes, lively and full of tenderness, inspired passion in the most careless hearts; she had not a feature in her face which was not gracefully moulded. The tones of her voice, her bearing, her slightest movements, had a charm which compelled admiration, and it was yielded the more willingly that it was elicited by no artifice on her part, but was a tribute to her natural merits. Nature had, indeed, done everything for her, and she had no occasion to resort to any adventitious aid however innocent." [392]

This lady, thus richly gifted with youth, beauty, and high birth, had been, even before her appearance at Court, promised in marriage by her father to the Marechal de Bassompierre, to whom indeed he had himself offered her hand,[393] but she was no sooner seen by Henry in the circle of the Queen than he became violently enamoured of her person, and resolved to prevent the alliance; a determination in which he found himself strengthened by the remonstrances of the Duc de Bouillon, the nephew of the Connetable, and consequently the cousin of the young beauty, whose favour Bassompierre had, in the excess of his happiness, neglected to conciliate, and who represented to the King that he could not conceal his astonishment on ascertaining that his Majesty was about to permit the union of Mademoiselle de Montmorency with a mere noble, however deserving of such distinction, when the Prince de Conde had attained to a marriageable age, and that it would be imprudent to countenance his alliance with a foreign princess; while as regards himself, he could not discover another eligible match save his cousin or Mademoiselle du Maine; and he was inclined to believe that none of the advisers of his Majesty would counsel him to authorize his own marriage with the latter, while the remnant of the League continued so formidable as to threaten a still more forcible and dangerous demonstration should they once find themselves under a leader with the power which he possessed to further their cause. He then represented that his alliance with Mademoiselle de Montmorency would involve no such results, as the allies and interests of the Connetable were his own, and concluded by entreating that his Majesty, before he sanctioned the marriage of Bassompierre with his cousin, would give the matter ample reflection.[394]

This contention, there can be no doubt, piqued the curiosity of the King, who in the course of the day mentioned the circumstance to the Duc de Bellegarde. The chance of the rivals in the favour of the lady herself could scarcely be doubtful, as the Duc de Bouillon, Prince of the Blood though he was, possessed few personal attractions, while the gay, the gallant, the magnificent Bassompierre was the cynosure of all eyes; superb in person, he was moreover of high birth, great wealth (although his profusion occasionally fettered his means), in high favour with the monarch, and celebrated alike for his wit and his attainments. Unfortunately, however, for his interests, M. le Grand had already seen Mademoiselle de Montmorency, and the animated description which he volunteered to the King of the coveted beauty was far from proving favourable to the views of Bassompierre, as Henry, before he came to any decision upon so important a question, resolved to decide for himself the value of the prize which he was about to adjudge to one or other of the contending parties. For this purpose he therefore joined the evening circle of the Queen, where he first saw the daughter of the Connetable, but apparently without the effect which had been anticipated by the Duc de Bellegarde.

On the morrow, however, he proved less insensible to the surpassing loveliness of the young maid of honour; her modest dignity in a private salon offering, in all probability, little attraction to the licentious monarch who was accustomed to see every eye turned towards himself, and every art exerted to fascinate his notice; but on the day of the rehearsal, when the graceful and blushing nymph of Diana was presented to him in her classic garb, her quiver at her back and her spear in her hand, he at once acknowledged the potency of the spell by which others had been previously subjugated. The rehearsal took place in the great hall of the Louvre, where Henry was attended only by the Due de Bellegarde, and Montespan,[395] the captain of his bodyguard.

The extraordinary loveliness of the young Princess, combined with her exquisite grace and dignified bearing, at once fascinated the King, who declared to the Duc de Bellegarde that he had never before beheld so faultless a face and form; to which assurance M. le Grand replied, says Bassompierre, "according to his usual manner of extolling everything that was novel, and particularly Mademoiselle de Montmorency, who was indeed worthy of all admiration; and thus infused into the mind of the King, always ready to yield to a new fancy, the passion which subsequently caused him to commit so many extravagances." [396]

For the moment, however, Henry was unable to pursue his unworthy purpose, being attacked the same evening by a violent fit of the gout, to which he had been occasionally subject for the last four years, and which declared itself on this occasion with so much acuteness that during fifteen days he was compelled to keep his bed. Meanwhile, the Duc de Bouillon was not idle. Considering himself aggrieved by the Connetable in not having been selected as the husband of his daughter, he complained loudly and bitterly of the slight, and even induced the Duc de Roquelaure to exert his influence with M. de Montmorency to withdraw his promise from Bassompierre, and to bestow the hand of the Princess upon himself. The Connetable, however, remained firm, declaring that he had already the honour to be the great-uncle of M. de Bouillon, a degree of kindred which quite satisfied his ambition; and that his daughter, being pledged to Bassompierre, could no longer be an object of pursuit with any prospect of success to any other noble, however great might be his rank; while, in pursuance of this resolution, the Duke caused preparations to be made for the celebration of the marriage in the chapel of his palace at Chantilly. Bassompierre was consequently at the summit of happiness; his ambition and his heart were alike satisfied, and he received the congratulations of those around him with an undisguised delight, which, in so proverbially gay and gallant a cavalier, could not fail to prove highly flattering to the object of his attachment.

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