Political Women (Vol. 1 of 2)
by Sutherland Menzies
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Transcriber's note. The original punctuation, language and spelling have been retained, except where noted at the end of the text. The [oe] ligature has been rendered as oe. Alternative spellings: Chateau: Chateau Chateauneuf: Chateauneuf Chatillon: Chatillon Claire Clemence de Maille: Claire Clemence de Maille Gondi: Gondy Guemene: Guemenee, Guymene heyday: heydey Hotel, hotel: Hotel, hotel Meilleraye: Meilleraie Montresor: Montresor Muenster: Munster Orleans: Orleans Scudery: Scuderi Seguier: Seguier Sevigne: Sevigne strenuously: strenously Tallemant des Reaux: Tallement des Reaux, Tallemant de Reaux










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CHAP. I.—Anne de Bourbon (sister of the Great Conde) 3

II.—The Duchess de Longueville 12

III. & IV.—The Duchess de Chevreuse 17, 35


CHAP. I.—Anne of Austria's Prime Minister and his policy 43

II.—The Duchess de Montbazon—Affair of the dropped letters—The Quarrel of the rival Duchesses 66

III.—The Importants 77

IV.—Conspiracy of the Duchess de Chevreuse and the Duke de Beaufort to get rid of Mazarin 82

V.—Failure of the plot to assassinate Mazarin—Arrest of Beaufort—Banishment of Madame de Chevreuse and dispersion of the Importants 99

VI.—Results of the quarrel between the Duchesses—Fatal duel between the Duke de Guise and Count Maurice de Coligny 110


CHAP. I.—The Duchess de Longueville and the Duke de la Rochefoucauld 121

II.—La Rochefoucauld draws Madame de Longueville into the vortex of politics and civil war 131

III.—The Duchess de Chevreuse driven into exile for the third time 143

IV.—Fatal influence of Madame de Longueville's passion for La Rochefoucauld—The Fronde 149

V.—Madame de Longueville wins over her brother Conde to the Fronde 161

VI.—The causes which led to the coup d'etat—The arrest of the Princes 168

VII.—Madame de Longueville's adventures in Normandy—The Women's War 178


CHAP. I.—The Princess Palatine 187

II.—The young Princess de Conde conducts the war in the south 203

III.—State of Parties on the liberation of the Princes 214

IV.—The Duchesses de Longueville and de Chevreuse and the Princess Palatine in the last Fronde—Results of the rupture of the marriage projected between the Prince de Conti and Mademoiselle de Chevreuse 221

V.—Conde, urged by his sister, goes unwillingly into rebellion 257

VI.—Madame de Longueville coquets with the Duke de Nemours 262


CHAP. I.—Conde's adventurous expedition 275

II.—Political and gallant intrigues—The Duchess de Chatillon's sway over Conde—Shameful conspiracy against Madame de Longueville 290


IN selecting the careers of certain celebrated women who have flung themselves with ardour into the vortex of politics, the author's choice has not been so much an arbitrary one as it might seem, but rather guided by instances in which the adventurous game has not been restricted to the commonplace contentions of the public platform, or the private salon, but played on the grandest scale and on the most conspicuous arena; when Peace and War, crowns and dynasties, have trembled in the balance, and even the fate of a nation has been at stake.

The untoward results of the lives thus devoted—dazzling and heroic as some passages in their dramatic vicissitudes may appear—point the moral of the futility of such pursuit on the part of the gentler sex, and indicate the certainty of the penalty to be paid by those who by venturing into the fervid, exhausting struggle, and rashly courting exposure to the rough blows of the battle of political life, with its coarse and noisy passions, have discovered too late that the strife has done them irreparable injury. In the cases of those selected it will be seen that the fierce contention has commonly involved the sacrifice of conjugal happiness, the welfare of children, domestic peace, reputation, and all the amenities of the gentle life.

That clever women abound in the present day we have undeniable proof—many as clever, no doubt, as that famous philosopheress Madame du Chatelet, who managed at one and the same moment the thread of an intrigue, her cards at piquet, and a calculation in algebra, but who may still lack the qualifications indispensably necessary to make clever politicians. Perhaps, therefore, we might be allowed to suggest that it would be well for ladies who are ambitious of figuring in either or both spheres that politics and diplomacy are special and laborious pursuits, involving a great deal of knowledge as difficult, and in the first instance as repulsive, to acquire as Greek or chemistry. Yet, fully admitting their capacity to qualify themselves intellectually, and supposing them to attain the summit of their ambition of figuring successfully in public life, a grave question still arises—would they thereby increase or diminish their present great social influence? They have now more influence of a certain kind than men have; but if they obtain the influence of men, they cannot expect to retain the influence of women. Nature, it may be thought, has established a fair distribution of power between the two sexes. Women are potent in one sphere, and men in another; and, if they are conscious of the domestic sway they already exercise, they will not imperil it by challenging dominion in a field in which they would be less secure.

Root and bond of the family, woman is no less a stranger by her natural aptitudes than by her domestic ministrations to the general interests of society; the conduct of the latter demands, in fact, a disengagement of heart and mind to which she can only attain by transforming herself, to the detriment of her duties and of her true influence. Ever to subordinate persons to things, never to overstep in her efforts the strict measure of the possible—those two conditions of the political life are repugnant to her ardent and devoted nature. Even amongst women in whom those gifts are met with in the highest degree, clearness of perception has been almost always obscured by the ardour of pursuit or that of patronage—by the irresistible desire of pushing to the extremity of success her own ideas, and especially those of her friends.

Again, let us imagine political life to resemble a great game at cards, the rules of which have been settled beforehand, and the winnings devoted to the use of the greatest number; well, a woman ought never to take a hand in it. Her place should be at the player's elbow, to warn and advise him, to point out an unperceived chance, to share in his success, more than all to console him, should luck run against him. Thus, whilst all her better qualities would be brought into play, all her weaker would not in any wise be at stake.

We would put it, therefore, to the womanly conscience—Is it not a hundred times more honourable to exercise, so to speak, rights that are legitimately recognised, though wisely limited, than to suffer in consideration, and often in reputation, from an usurpation always certain of being disputed?

It has been the author's endeavour to show the truth of these conclusions by tracing the political career of certain well-born and singularly-gifted women—women whose lofty courage, strength of mind, keen introspection, political zeal, and genius for intrigue enabled them to baffle and make head against some of the greatest political male celebrities of modern history, without, however, winning us over to their opinions or their cause; women who, in some instances, after passing the best period of their lives in political strife, in fostering civil war, in hatching perilous plots, and who, having cast fortune and all the "gentle life" to the winds, preferred exile to submission, or to wage a struggle as fruitless as it was unceasing; until having arrived at the tardy conviction of its futility, and that they had devoted their existence to the pursuit of the illusory and the chimerical, they found at length repose and tranquillity only in solitude and repentance.

In the stirring careers of certain among these remarkable personages, it will be seen that the mainspring of their political zeal was either the fierce excitement of an overmastering passion, an irresistible proclivity to gallantry, or an absorbing ambition, rather than any patriotic motive. This may go far to explain the singular sagacity, finesse, and energy displayed in their devotion to what otherwise appears alike mischievous and chimerical by those three high-born and splendidly-gifted women who figured so conspicuously in the civil war of the Fronde; and, though so much self-abnegation, courage, constancy, and heroism, well or ill displayed, may obtain some share of pardon for errors it would be wrong to palliate or condone, their example, it is to be hoped, will prove deterrent rather than contagious. La Rochefoucauld—a moralist, though by no means a moral man—who well knew the sex, had seen at work these political women of the time of the Fronde. That opportunity does not appear to have inspired him with an unbounded admiration for them from that point of view.

Of the peril and mischief that fair trio inflicted upon Anne of Austria's great Prime Minister and the State he governed we have an interesting personal record. When, in 1660, Mazarin's policy, triumphant on every side, had added the treaty of the Pyrenees to that of Westphalia, the honour of the conclusion of the protracted conference held at the Isle of Pheasants was reserved for the chief Ministers of the two Crowns—the Cardinal and Don Louis de Haro. The latter congratulated his brother premier on the well-earned repose he was about to enjoy, after such a long and arduous struggle. The Cardinal replied that he could not promise himself any repose in France, for there, he said, the female politicians were more to be dreaded than the male; and he complained bitterly of the torments he had undergone at the hands of certain political women of the Fronde—notably the Duchess de Longueville, the Duchess de Chevreuse, and the Princess Palatine, each of whom, he asserted, was capable of upsetting three kingdoms.

"You are very lucky here in Spain," he added. "You have, as everywhere else, two kinds of women—coquettes in abundance, and a very few simple-minded domestic women. The former care only to please their lovers, the latter their husbands. Neither the one nor the other, however, have any ambition beyond indulging themselves in vanities and luxuries. They only employ their pens in scribbling billet-doux or love-confessions, neither one nor other bother their brains as to how the grain grows, whilst talking about business makes their heads ache. Our women, on the contrary, whether prudes or flirts, old or young, stupid or clever, will intermeddle with everything. No honest woman," to use the Cardinal's own words, "would permit her spouse to go to sleep, no coquette allow her lover any favour, ere she had heard all the political news of the day. They will see all that goes on, will know everything, and—what is worse—have a finger in everything, and set everything in confusion. We have a trio, among others"—and he again named the three fair factionists above mentioned—"who threw us all daily into more confusion than was ever known in Babel."

"Thank heaven!" replied Don Louis, somewhat ungallantly, "our women are of the disposition seemingly so well known to you. Provided that they can finger the cash, whether of their husbands or their lovers, they are satisfied; and I am very glad to say that they do not meddle with politics, for if they did they would assuredly embroil everything in Spain as they do in France."

It was during the minority of Louis XIV. that Mazarin had but too good cause to complain of the three clever and fascinating women he thus named to Don Louis de Haro, who through their political factions, intrigues, and gallantries gave Anne of Austria's Minister no rest, and for a long period not only thwarted and opposed him, but at intervals placed the State, and even his life, in imminent jeopardy.

Fortunately, in our political history the instances are rare of women who have quitted the sphere of domesticity and private life to take an active part in the affairs of State. We say "fortunately;" for in our opinion such abstention has tended to the happiness of both sexes in England.

In French memoirs, politics and scandal, the jokes of the salons and the councils of the Cabinet are inextricably mixed up together, and reveal a political system in which the authority exercised under free institutions by men had been transferred to the art, the tact, and the accomplishments of the female sex. We therein see how much women have done by those subtle agencies. If France was a despotism tempered by epigrams, it was the life of the salons which brought those epigrams to perfection; and the salons thus constituted a sort of social parliament, which, though unable to stop the supplies or withhold the Mutiny Act, still possessed a formidable weapon of offence in the power of making the Government ridiculous. Such was the difference existing between two quite distinct modes of government; between Parliamentary government and closet government; between the mace of the House of Commons and the fan of the Duchess de Longueville. England, as we need hardly say, has never had a government of this description. The nearest approach to it which she has ever seen was under the sway of Charles the Second, and, accordingly, the nearest approach to French memoirs which our literature possesses is in the volumes of Pepys and Hamilton. To the almost universal exemption of Englishwomen from taking an overt part in political affairs a striking exception must be made in Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough. She is the strongest example, perhaps, in the history of the world—certainly in the history of this empire—of the abuse of female favouritism, and the most flagrant instance of household familiarity on the destinies of mankind. Sarah Jennings, the political heroine of her age, and Viceroy, as she was called, in England, had, however, for contemporaries two other remarkable women, who touched the springs of political machinery quite as powerfully as—if not more powerfully than, save herself, any to be found within the limits of Europe—Madame de Maintenon and the Princess des Ursins. In the respective careers of that other formidable trio of female politicians may be traced the important, the overwhelming, influence, which female Ministers, under the title of Court ladies, had obtained over the destinies of England, France, and Spain. At that momentous period—the commencement of the eighteenth century—the memoirs of a bed-chamber lady constitute the history of Europe. The bed-chamber woman soon became the pivot of the political world. The influence of Mrs. Masham first endangered and finally overthrew the power of the great Duke of Marlborough. Some of the characteristics of the reign of Charles the Second reappeared partially and in a very unattractive form under the two first Georges, and have served to impart a tinge of French colour to the memoirs which describe their Courts. But, fortunately for England, neither Walpole nor his royal master were men of refined taste. It would have been hard for a monarch like Charles the Second, or a minister like Lord Bolingbroke, to resist the charms of those beautiful and sprightly girls who sparkle like diamonds in all the memoirs of that time. Their political influence was but small. George the First and his successor pursued their unwieldy loves and enjoyed their boorish romps in a style not seductive to English gentlemen. Politics were surrendered to Walpole; and the consequence was that, although there was plenty of immorality under those gracious Sovereigns, yet the feminine element of Court life had no longer that connection with public policy which once for a brief space it had possessed; and the resemblance to French manners in this respect grew less and less, till it disappeared altogether with the accession of George the Third.

During the reign of that domesticated paterfamilias a slight exception, it is true, occurred in the instance of Georgina Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire. Young, beautiful, amiable, and witty, and not altogether free from coquetry, she reckoned amongst her admirers some of the most distinguished men of that day. She fascinated them all without encouraging the pretensions of any; and notwithstanding the jealousy which so great a superiority necessarily excited among her own sex, and despite the rancour to which the inutility of their efforts to please her gave birth in the bosoms of certain of the men, she preserved a reputation for discretion beyond all suspicion. One circumstance of her life might indeed have cast a slur upon her fair fame if her irreproachable conduct, added to her natural graces, had not condoned a species of notoriety which opinion in England very generally reproves. The Duchess of Devonshire had friendly relations with the celebrated Charles James Fox, and that friendship had taken the tinge of party spirit. Fox presented himself as a candidate to represent Westminster in Parliament. He had two very formidable opponents, and it was thought that he would have succumbed in the struggle had not several amiable and energetic women made extraordinary efforts to procure him votes. At the head of these fair solicitors was the Duchess of Devonshire. A butcher whose vote she requested promised it to her on the condition that he might give her a kiss. To this she cheerfully consented, and that kiss added one more vote to her friend's poll. Such familiarity was far less shocking to our English manners than the too active and public part taken by a lady of distinction in politics. Very few of her countrywomen before her time had given occasion for a like scandal.[1]

[1] An anecdote of her has been preserved which proves how very general was the impression the grace and beauty of the Duchess of Devonshire made upon men in every station of society. On one occasion of her being present on the racecourse at Newmarket, a burly farmer who stood near her carriage, after having for some time gazed at her in a species of ecstasy, exclaimed aloud, "Ah! why am I not God Almighty?—she should then be Queen of Heaven!" The Duchess preserved her personal charms far beyond the period of life when they commonly disappear among women, though she lost one of her eyes a few years before her death in 1806.

The existence of those literary assemblies in France during the eighteenth century, the most important of which were those presided over by Madame du Deffand, Mdlle. de Lespinasse, and Madame Geoffrin, were a characteristic feature of the time. It is a notable fact that the abstention from politics in those assemblies indirectly tended to increase the power and importance of the women who frequented them. Alluding to their influence, Montesquieu caustically remarked that a nation where women give the prevailing tone must necessarily be talkative. Then, however, it was the men who talked and the women who listened. The men talked because they could do little else; women gave the prevailing tone because men of all classes were partly compelled, and partly willing, to gather around them. The nobles being excluded from politics—in which none but the Ministers and their creatures could interfere—exercising no control either as individuals or as a body, naturally gave themselves up to the pleasures of society. Their political insignificance thus increased the power and importance of women.

To a far greater degree was their power and importance increased, on the contrary, during the first decade of the French Revolution, when, from the exceptional position they held, the salons of Madame Roland, Madame Necker, Madame de Suard, and others were essentially political—that of Madame Roland being almost an echo of the Legislative Assembly. But women who love freedom abstractedly for its own sake, and are ready to suffer and die for a political principle, like Madame Roland, are very rarely met with.

Towards the close of the century the female leaders of the hitherto literary and social salons were so irresistibly swept into the whirlpool of public questions and events that they for the most part involuntarily became mere political partisans. Among others, but with a considerable modification on the score of the literary element, may be instanced Madame de Stael, who by descent, education, and natural bias was inevitably destined to aim at political power. The extent and prominence of that exercised by her must have been considerable, though certainly overrated by Napoleon, in whom, however, it excited such unreasonable apprehension as led him to inflict ten years' banishment from France upon the talented daughter of Necker.

It must not be inferred that we desire to reduce women to the condition of a humiliating inaction. Far from it. In the position we would place them they could never feel, think, or act with greater interest or vivacity. Whilst it is desirable that every kind of artifice or intrigue should be interdicted from the interior of their domesticity, it is quite permissible for them to watch attentively important matters that may be occurring in public life. To that function they may bring their care and their solicitude, in order to follow and second continually the companion of their existence. "Les hommes meme," says Fenelon, "qui ont toute l'autorite en public, ne peuvent par leurs deliberations etablir aucun bien effectif, si les femmes ne leur aident a l'executer." Such was the legitimate influence exercised by the Princess Esterhazy, Ladies Holland, Palmerston, and Beaconsfield, in our day. It is no secret that the late lamented Viscountess Beaconsfield took the deepest interest in every great movement in which her illustrious husband was engaged. Such, too, was the case with Lady Palmerston, in reference to the great statesman whose name she bore. The influence of women in the politics of recent days is something peculiar and new. Our time has seen many women whose share in the politics of men was frank, unconcealed, and legitimate, while yet it never pretended or sought to be anything more than an influence—never attempted to be a ruling spirit. By following these examples, the women of England may make their power felt, without demanding to be put upon the same footing as their husbands.

Woman's reign, it has been truly said, "is almost absolute within the four walls of a drawing-room." It is undisputed in family direction and in the management of children; but the cases are rare indeed where it extends to public questions of any kind. The Frenchwoman of the present day is essentially a woman. Her objects are almost always feminine; she does not seek to go beyond her sphere; she understands her mission as one of duty in her house and of attraction towards the world; she is generally very ignorant of politics and all dry subjects, and shrinks from any active part in their discussion. Of course there are exceptions by the thousand; but the rule is that she voluntarily abstains from interference in outside topics, whatever be their gravity or their importance. She may have a vague opinion on such matters, picked up from hearing men talk around her, but the bent of her nature leads her in other ways—her tendency is towards things which satisfy her as a woman. It naturally follows that men do not give her what she does not seem to want. They consult her on matters of mutual interest, they ask for and often follow her advice in business; but in nine cases out of ten no husband would allow his wife to tell him how to vote at an election, or what form of government to support. This distinction is infinitely more remarkable in France than any analogous condition would be in England, because of the existence there of several rivals to the throne, and the consequent splitting up of the entire nation into adherents of each pretender. Yet even this exceptional position does not induce Frenchwomen to become politicians. Some few of them, of course, are so, and fling themselves with ardour into the cause they have adopted; but, fortunately for the tranquillity of their homes, the greater part of them have wisdom enough to comprehend that their real functions on the earth are of another kind.

The majority of the champions of the enfranchisement of the sex have loudly protested against the hackneyed truisms, formerly so rife, which impute to women every imaginable form of silliness and frivolity; that they, like Alphonse Karr's typical woman, have nothing to do but "s'habiller, babiller et se deshabiller." But it will be well to remember the existence of another class of maxims of even greater weight, which dwell on the subtle influence of women, and of its illimitable consequences. "If the nose of Cleopatra," remarks the most famous of these aphorists—Pascal—"had been a hair's-breadth longer, the fortunes of the world would have been altered." Has the influence of the sex decreased since the days of the dusky beauty whose irresistible fascinations

"——lost a world, and bade a hero fly?"

Rather, is it not infinitely more subtle, wider, and more prevailing than ever? No one who recognises the skill with which that immense influence may be exercised can listen without astonishment to the flimsy arguments which are usually advanced in support of the question of the political enfranchisement of the sex. That the results of giving this particular form of ability—a power which is irresistible to the highest intellectual refinement—the political arena for its field have not only proved widely injurious to women who have so exercised it, but to those most closely connected with them, it has been the author's object to show.

"And what hope of permanent success," it has been cogently asked, "could women have if they were to enter into competition with men in callings considered peculiarly masculine, many of which are already overstocked?" We are also brought here again face to face with that evil—the lessening or the complete loss of womanly grace and purity. Take away that reverential regard which men now feel for them, leave them to win their way by sheer strength of body or mind, and the result is not difficult to conjecture. Let the condition of women in savage life tell. Towards something like this, although in civilised society not so coarsely and roughly exposed to view, matters would tend if these agitators for women's rights were successful. Husbands, brothers, sons, have too keen a sense of what they owe of good to their female relatives to risk its loss; or to exchange the gentleness, purity, and refinement of their homes for boldness, flippancy, hardness and knowledge of evil.

Nature, herself, then, has disqualified women from fighting and from entering into the fierce contentions of the prickly and crooked ways of politics. There is a silent and beautiful education which Heaven intended that all alike should learn from mothers, sisters, and wives. Each home was meant to have in their gentler presence a softening and refining element, so that strength should train itself to be submissive, rudeness should become abashed, and coarse passions held in check by the natural influence of women. High or low, educated or uneducated, there is the proper work of the weaker sex. And, finally, we venture to address her in the words of Lord Lyttelton:—

"Seek to be good, but aim not to be great; A woman's noblest station is retreat; Her fairest virtues fly from public sight; Domestic worth—that shuns too strong a light."






THE brilliant heroine of the Fronde, of whose grace, beauty, and influence Anne of Austria was so jealous—not to speak of the mortal rivalry of the gay Duchesses de Montbazon and de Chatillon—although the youngest of that famous trio whom Mazarin found so formidable in the arena of politics, obviously claims alike from her exalted rank and the memorable part she played in the tragi-comedy of the Fronde, priority of notice among the bevy of the Cardinal's fair political opponents.

Some time in the month of August, 1619, Anne Genevieve de Bourbon-Conde first saw the light in the donjon of Vincennes, where her parents had been kept State prisoners for three years previously. She was the eldest of the three children of Henry (II.) de Bourbon-Conde, first prince of the blood, and of that Charlotte Marguerite de Montmorency, "the beauty, perfect grace and majesty of her time."[1] The lovely Montmorency on coming to Court in her fifteenth year had sorely troubled the heart of the amorous soldier-king, Henry of Navarre, who had married her in 1609 to his nephew of Conde with the covert hope of finding him an accommodating husband; but the latter, alike defiant and uxorious, made the jovial Bearnois plainly understand that he had wedded the blooming Charlotte exclusively for himself. The gaillard monarch, however, at length grew so deeply enamoured that the prince, perceiving there was too much cause to fear the result of the constant assiduities of his royal uncle, fled precipitately with his young wife from France, only to return thither after tidings reached him of the great Henry's assassination. To the fair Montmorency's very decided proclivity to gallantry was to be attributed—if we may believe the scandal-loving Tallemant des Reaux—her long confinement, by the Regent Marie de' Medici's consent, within the gloomy fortress of Vincennes, rather than any reason of State for her sharing her husband's imprisonment. In fact, it was believed that the jealous prince procured her incarceration simply to keep her out of harm's way.

[1] Lenet.

Deriving from her mother the threefold gifts of grace, beauty, and majesty, the fair Bourbon inherited also, it must be owned, a share of that princess's inclination to l'honnete galanterie. The restriction to a share should be noted; for at no period of her heydey, not even during the licence of the Fronde, could Anne Genevieve be accused of having—as Madame de Motteville tells us the Princess de Conde had,—adorers "in every rank and condition of life, from popes, kings, princes, cardinals, dukes, and marshals of France, down to simple gentlemen."

The mind and heart, however, of Anne de Bourbon, although predestined, alas! eventually to culpable passion, seemed at first but little inclined to the gay world—with all its blandishments and seductions, or even to its innocent pleasures. When quite a child she was in the habit of accompanying her mother in her visits to the convent of the Carmelites at Paris. For though still possessing great personal attractions, Madame de Conde had become serious and of a somewhat demonstrative piety. Those visits, which were frequent, strengthened Anne's gentle and susceptible mind in its tendency to devotion. The impression, too, which somewhat later the tragic fate of her uncle, the unfortunate Duke de Montmorency,[2] left on her memory, inspired her with the resolution to quit the outer world at the earliest possible moment, and, renouncing all its pomps and grandeurs, hide beneath the veil her budding attractions. Although her mother opposed an inflexible resistance to her embracing that holy vocation, and strove to combat by forcible arguments the cold and disdainful demeanour exhibited by her daughter when mixing in gay society, the fair girl persevered from the age of thirteen to seventeen in her longing to embrace the life of the cloister. Futile for a time were the parental arguments, unfruitful every effort! Anne Genevieve would not consort with worldlings, persisted in her distaste for mundane pleasures, and continued to cherish persistently her desire for conventual seclusion. At length the princess, in 1636, having resolved upon the adoption of more energetic measures, suddenly ordered her daughter to make preparations for appearing at a Court ball, and that, too, in three days. With what despair did the young princess hear the cruel sentence! What affliction, too, befell the Carmelite nuns when they heard of the fatal mandate. What a flood of sighs and tears and prayers! The good sisters gathered themselves together to take counsel one with another, and decided that, since Mdlle. de Bourbon could not avoid the wretched fate that awaited her, before going through the trying ordeal she should indue her lovely form with an undergarment of hair-cloth (commonly called a cilice), and, protected by such armour of proof, she might then fearlessly submit herself to all the temptations lurking beneath the ensnaring vanities of her Court attire. The cilice, however, did not, it seems, prove invulnerable as the aegis of Minerva, for the subtle shafts winged by homage and admiration pierced through that slight breast-plate to a heart which in truth was by nature framed to inspire and welcome both. The Princess de Conde rejoiced greatly at her daughter's conversion to more reasonable views of mundane existence. The commencement of her noviciate was no longer thought of, and her visits to the Carmelites became sufficiently rare. But it was only a deferment of that calm vocation, it being Anne de Bourbon's destiny to embrace it at the close of her feverish political career.

[2] Brought to the scaffold by Richelieu in 1632.

This era of her entrance into the great world was probably the happiest, the most joyous of the fair Bourbon's life. Lofty distinction of birth, great personal beauty, and rare mental fascination, contributed to place her in the very foremost rank of the Court circle—in the "height of company"—conspicuous amongst lovely dames and distinguished men of the time. Her peerless loveliness at once meeting with universal recognition, "la belle Conde" was toasted with acclamation by courtiers, young and old—at Chantilly, at Liancourt, at the Louvre, and at the Hotel de Rambouillet. Contemporaries of either sex have rendered unanimous testimony to the varied and exceptional character of her attractions, and we will let a woman's pen add to Petitot's pencilling some of those delicate traits which neither the burin nor even the vivid tints of the enamel have the power to convey.

"Her beauty," says Mdme. de Motteville, "consisted more in the brilliance of her complexion"—("it had the blush of the pearl," writes another contemporary)—"than in perfection of feature. Her eyes were not large, but bright, and finely cut, and of a blue so lovely it resembled that of the turquoise. The poets could only apply the trite comparison of lilies and roses to the carnation which mantled on her cheek, whilst her fair, silken, luxuriant tresses, and the peculiar limpidity of her glance, added to many other charms, made her more like an angel—so far as our imperfect nature allows of our imagining such a being—than a mere woman." Somewhat later, the smallpox, in robbing her of the bloom of her beauty, still left her all its brilliancy, to repeat the remark of that eminent connoisseur of female loveliness, Cardinal de Retz.

To sum up the general opinion of her contemporaries: Mdlle. de Bourbon rather charmed by the very peculiar style of her countenance than by its linear regularity. One of her greatest fascinations lay in an indescribable languor, both of mind and manner—"a languor interrupted at intervals," says De Retz, "by a sort of luminous awakenings, as surprising as they were delightful. This physical and intellectual indolence presented later in life a piquant contrast to her then"—according to Mdme. de Motteville—"somewhat too passionate temperament." She was of good height, and altogether of an admirable form. It is evident also, from the authentic portraits of her still extant, that she had that kind of attraction so much prized during the seventeenth century, and which, with beautiful hands, had made the reputation of Anne of Austria. In speech, we are told, she was very gentle. Her gestures, with the expression of her countenance, and the sound of her voice, produced the most perfect music. But her peculiar charm consisted in a graceful ease—a languor, as all her contemporaries expressed it—which would quickly change to the highest degree of animation when stirred by emotion, but which usually gave her an air of indolence and aristocratic nonchalance, sometimes mistaken for ennui, sometimes for disdain.

Crediting the unvarying testimony of these and other of her contemporaries, the daughter of Bourbon-Conde must have been at least as beautiful as her mother—endowed, indeed, with almost every attribute and feature of female loveliness.

"Beauty," remarks a philosophic panegyrist of physical perfection, "extends its prestige to posterity itself, and attaches a charm for centuries to the name alone of the privileged creatures upon whom it has pleased heaven to bestow it." Beauty has also its epochs. It does not belong to all men and to all ages to enjoy it in its exquisite perfection. As there are fashions which spoil it, so there are periods which affect its sentiment. For instance, it belonged to the eighteenth century to invent pretty women—charming dolls—all powder, patches, and perfume, affecting the attractions which they did not possess under their vast hoops and great furbelows. Let us venture to say that the foundation of true beauty, as of true virtue, as of true genius, is strength. Shed over this strength the vivifying rays of elegance, grace, delicacy, and you have beauty. Its perfect type is the Venus of Milo,[3] or again, that pure and mysterious apparition, goddess or mortal, which is called Psyche, or the Venus of Naples.[4] Beauty is certainly to be seen in the Venus de' Medici, but in that type we feel that it is declining, or about to decline. Look at, not the women of Titian, but the virgins of Raphael and Leonardo: the face is of infinite delicacy, but the body evinces strength. These forms ought to disgust one for ever with the shadows and monkeys a la Pompadour. Let us adore grace, but not separate it in everything too much from strength, for without strength grace soon shares the fate of the flower that is separated from the stem which vitalizes and sustains it.

[3] Quatremere de Quincy, Dissertation upon the Antique Statue of Venus Discovered in the Island of Milo. 1836.

[4] Millingen: Ancient Inedited Monuments. Fol. 1826.

What a train of accomplished women this seventeenth century presents to us! They were not all politicians. Women who were loaded with admiration, drawing after them all hearts, and spreading from rank to rank that worship of beauty which throughout Europe received the name of French gallantry. In France they accompany this great century in its too rapid course; they mark its principal epochs, beginning with Charlotte de Montmorency and ending with Mdme. de Montespan. The Duchess de Longueville has perhaps the most prominent place in that dazzling gallery of lovely women, having all the characteristics of true beauty, and joining to it a charm exclusively her own.

In early girlhood she had been taken, along with her elder brother, the Duke d'Enghien, to the Hotel de Rambouillet; and the salons of the Rue St. Thomas du Louvre were probably the most fitting school for such a mind as hers, in which grandeur and finesse were almost equally blended—a grandeur allied to the romantic, and associated with a finesse frequently merging into subtilty, as indeed may be discerned in Corneille himself, the most perfect mental representative of that period.

To follow step by step the course of Anne de Bourbon's life at this period of it through all its earliest rivalries, would involve the task of recording the manifold caprices of a tender, yet ambitious nature, in which the mind and heart were unceasingly dupes of each other. It would be like an attempt to follow the devious path of the light foam and laughing sparkle of the billow—

"In vento et rapida scribere oportet aqua."

Our purpose lies mainly with her political life, but ere entering upon it we will give a short but comprehensive view of her character in the words of one who, more than anybody else, had the means of judging her correctly—La Rochefoucauld. "This Princess," writes the Duke, "possessed all the charms of mind, united to personal beauty, to so high a degree, that it seemed as though nature had taken pleasure in forming in her person a perfectly finished work. But those fine qualities were rendered less brilliant through a blemish rarely seen in one so highly endowed, which was that, far from giving the law to those who had a particular admiration for her, she transfused herself so thoroughly into their sentiments that she no longer recognised her own."

Now La Rochefoucauld should have been the last person to complain of that defect, since he was the first to foster it in the Duchess. In her bosom love awoke ambition, but the awakening was so sudden, in fact, that any difference in the two passions was never perceptible.

Singular contradiction! The more we contemplate the political bias of Madame de Longueville the more it becomes mingled with her amorous caprice; but when we analyse her love more narrowly (and later on in life she herself made the avowal), it appears nothing else than ambition travestied—a desire to shine only the more magnificently brilliant.

Her character, then, was entirely wanting in consistency, in self-will; and her mind, be it observed, however brilliant and acute, had nothing that was calculated to counterbalance that defect of character. One may possess the faculty of right perception without strength of mind to do that which is right. One may be rational in mind and the contrary in conduct—character being at fault between the two. But here the case was different. Madame de Longueville's mind was not, above all else, rational; it was acute, prompt, subtle, witty by turns, and readily responsive to the varying humour of the moment. It shone voluntarily in contradiction and subterfuge, ere exhausting itself finally in scruples. There was much of the Hotel de Rambouillet in such a mind as hers.

"The mind in the majority of women serves rather to confirm their folly than their reason." So says the author of the "Maxims;" and Madame de Longueville, with all her metamorphoses, was undoubtedly present before him when he penned the sentence. For she, the most feminine of her sex, would offer to him the completest epitome of all the rest. In short, evidently as he has made his observations upon her, she also seems to have drawn her conclusions from him. So the agreement is perfect.



A YOUNG Princess of the Blood so lovely, fascinating, and witty as Anne de Bourbon, was surely destined, it might be thought, to contract an early and altogether suitable matrimonial alliance. It was therefore somewhat surprising to find how much difficulty there was in mating her. Foremost among those who sought her hand was that hair-brained, handsome, coarse-mannered Duke de Beaufort, younger son of Caesar de Vendome, himself the bastard of the jovial Bearnois by the Fair Gabrielle.[1] Beaufort inherited his unfortunate grand-dame's beauty—had a Phoebus-Apollo style of head, set off with a profusion of long, curly, golden locks; was a young, brave, and flourishing gallant, and somewhat later (during the Fronde), from his blunt speech and familiar manners with the Parisian mob, became the idol of the market-women, and was therefore dubbed Roi des Halles. But this scapegrace suitor withdrew his pretensions in order to gratify, it is said, the handsome though decried Duchess de Montbazon, who had enthralled him in her flowery chains as a led-captain. On entering her nineteenth year Mdlle. de Bourbon was promised in marriage to the Prince de Joinville, son of Charles of Lorraine (Duke de Guise), but that young nobleman having died prematurely in Italy, no other serious matrimonial project seems to have been entertained until the Princess had reached her twenty-third year. The fortunate suitor was one of Beaufort's rivals—or, rather, colleagues—for that would be the more correct term when designating their mutual relations to the unscrupulous Duchess de Montbazon. The widower, Henry of Orleans (Duke de Longueville), by birth, dignity, and wealth was looked upon as the first match in France. Unfortunately, in his case, those dazzling attributes were materially abated through disparity of age, for he had reached the ripe maturity of forty-seven, whilst the bride of his choice had not yet seen half that cycle of summers. To be twenty-four years her senior was, for the husband of a youthful princess so excelling in wit and beauty, certainly a formidable inequality, and so Mdlle. de Bourbon seems to have thought. At the command, however, of her father, who intimated that his determination was inflexible in thus disposing of his daughter's hand, Anne Genevieve meekly complied, and was espoused in June, 1642, to Henri de Bourbon, Duke de Longueville.[2]

[1] Created Duchess de Beaufort by Henry IV.

[2] The Duke was descended from the "brave Dunois," bastard of Orleans.

The young Duchess found herself speedily surrounded by a swarm of courtiers, attracted by her sprightly and refined intelligence, her majestic beauty, her nonchalant and languishing grace. What more adorable mistress could an audacious aspirant dream of? Bold adventurers for such a lady's love there was no lack of; and would not many be encouraged with the thought that such a prize could only be defended by a husband already verging towards the decline of life, and whose heart, moreover, was believed to be in the keeping of another? The sighs of the suitors, however, all adventurous and calculating as they might be, were wasted, their hopes altogether fallacious. For six long years there was nothing more accorded to that crowd of often-renewed adorers save the smiles of an innocent coquetry. He who, during that period of honest gallantry, coming near to La Rochefoucauld, seems to have made the liveliest impression, was Coligny; and it was only slanderers who whispered that the young Count was happier than became the adorer of a heroine of the De Rambouillet school.

Madame de Longueville, nevertheless, possessed the characteristics of her sex; she had alike its lovable qualities and its well-known imperfections. In a sphere where gallantry was the order of the day, that young and fascinating creature, married to a man already in the decline of life, and, moreover, with his affections engaged elsewhere, merely followed the universal example. Tender by nature, the senses, she herself says in her confessions—the humblest ever made—played no minor part in the affairs of the heart. But, surrounded unceasingly by homage, she found pleasure in receiving it. Very lovable, she centred her happiness in being loved. Sister of the Great Conde, she was not insensible to the idea of playing a part which should occupy public attention; but, far from pretending to domination, there was so much of the woman in her that she allowed herself to be led by him whom she loved. Whilst, around her, interest and ambition assumed so frequently the hues of love, she listened to the dictates of her heart alone, and devoted herself to the interest and ambition of another. All contemporary writers are unanimous on that point. Her enemies sharply reproach her alike for not having a fitting object in her political intrigues, and for being unmindful of her own interests. But they appear not to be aware that, in thinking to overwhelm her memory by such accusation, they rather elevate it, and they are assiduous to cover her faults and misconduct—faults which, after all, are centred in one alone. In short, some writers cast the greater part of the blame the young Duchess's conduct merits upon her husband, who, according to them, knew not how to make amends for his own disadvantage, on the score of disparity of age, by an anxious and indulgent tenderness.

Before their marriage was solemnised it was stipulated that the Duke de Longueville should break off his liaison with the Duchess de Montbazon—then notorious as one of the most unrestrained among the women of fashion at the Court of the Regent. This, however, the Duke unhappily failed to do.

In declaring its adhesion to Mazarin at the commencement of the Regency, the House of Conde had drawn upon itself the hatred of the party of the Importants, though that enmity scarcely rebounded upon Madame de Longueville. Her amiableness in everything where her heart was not seriously concerned, her perfect indifference to politics at this period of her life, together with the graces of her mind and person, rendered her universally popular, and shielded her against the injustice of partisan malice. But outside the pale of politics she had an enemy, and a formidable one, in the Duchess de Montbazon. That bold and dangerous woman having by her fascinations enslaved Beaufort, the quondam admirer of Madame de Longueville, the young Duke through her intrigues became a favourite chief of the Importants. Amongst the earliest to swell the ranks of that faction were two other personages who had played a very conspicuous part during the reign of Louis XIII. The first of these, Madame de Montbazon's step-daughter, was the witty, beautiful, and errant Duchess de Chevreuse, whom Louis had judged so dangerous that he had expressly forbidden by his will, when on the point of death, that she should ever be recalled from exile to Court. By the same prohibition was affected the former Keeper of the Seals, the Marquis de Chateauneuf, who had displayed considerable talent under Richelieu, but had ultimately made himself obnoxious to that great Minister, after having given many a sanguinary proof of his devotion to him. A glance at the antecedents of that remarkable woman, Madame de Chevreuse, the early favourite of Anne of Austria, will now be necessary in order to understand clearly her relative position to the Queen and Mazarin at the commencement of the Regency, as well as to those incipient Frondeurs, the Importants, at the moment of her dragging the Prince de Marsillac (afterwards Duke de Rochefoucauld) into that party.



FROM the long-sustained, vigorous, and very eminent part played by Marie de Rohan in opposing the repressive system of the two great Cardinal Ministers, her name belongs equally to the political history as to that of the society and manners of the first half of the sixteenth century.

She came of that old and illustrious race the issue of the first princes of Brittany, and was the daughter of Hercule de Rohan, Duke de Montbazon, a zealous servant of Henry IV., by his first wife Madeleine de Lenoncourt, sister of Urbain de Laval, Marshal de Bois-Dauphin. Born in December, 1600, she lost her mother at a very early age, and in 1617 was married to that audacious favourite of Louis XIII., De Luynes, who from the humble office of "bird-catcher" to the young King, rose to the proud dignity of Constable of France, and who, upon the faith of a king's capricious friendship, dared to undertake the reversal of the Queen-mother, Marie de' Medici's authority; hurl to destruction her great favourite, the Marshal d'Ancre; combat simultaneously princes and Protestants, and commence against Richelieu the system of Richelieu. Early becoming a widow, Marie next, in 1622, entered the house of Lorraine by espousing Claude, Duke de Chevreuse, one of the sons of Henry de Guise, great Chamberlain of France, whose highest merit was the name he bore, accompanied by good looks and that bravery which was never wanting to a prince of Lorraine; otherwise disorderly in the conduct of his affairs, of not very edifying manner of life, which may go far to explain and extenuate the errors of his young wife. The new Duchess de Chevreuse had been appointed during the sway of her first husband, surintendante (controller) of the Queen's household, and soon became as great a favourite of Anne of Austria as the Constable de Luynes was of Louis the Just. The French Court was then very brilliant, and gallantry the order of the day. Marie de Rohan was naturally vivacious and dashing, and, yielding herself up to the seductions of youth and pleasure, she had lovers, and her adorers drew her into politics. Her beauty and captivating manners were such as to fascinate and enthral the least impressible who crossed her path, and their dangerous power was extensively employed in influencing the politics of Europe, and consequently had a large share in framing her own destiny. A portrait in the possession of the late Duke de Luynes[1] represents her as having an admirable figure, a charming expression of countenance, large and well-opened blue eyes, chesnut-tinted fair hair in great abundance, a well-formed neck, with the loveliest bust possible, and throughout her entire person a piquant blending of delicacy, grace, vivacity, and passion. The following summary of her character by the clever, caustic, but little scrupulous De Retz, graphic as it is, and based on a certain amount of truth, must not be unhesitatingly accepted, it being over-coloured by wilful exaggeration:—"I have never seen anyone else," says he, "in whom vivacity so far usurped the place of judgment. It very often inspired her with such brilliant sallies that they flashed like lightning, and so sensible withal, that they might not have been disowned by the greatest men of any age. The manifestation of this faculty was not confined to particular occasions. Had she lived in times when politics were non-existent, she would not have rested content with the idea only that they ought to have been rife. If the Prior of the Carthusians had pleased her, she would have become a sincere recluse. M. de Luynes initiated her into politics, the Duke of Buckingham and the Earl of Holland corresponded with her upon them, and Chateauneuf amused her with them. She gave herself up to their pursuit because she abandoned herself, without reserve, to everything which pleased the individual whom she loved, and simply because it was indispensable that she should love somebody. It was not even difficult to give her a lover by setting an eligible suitor to pay her court with an ostensible political motive; but as soon as she accepted him, she loved him solely and faithfully, and she owned to Mdme. de Rhodes and myself that, through caprice, she said, she had never really loved those whom she esteemed the most, with the exception of the unfortunate George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. Devotion to the passion which in her might be called eternal, although she might change the object of it, did not prevent even a fly from causing her mental abstraction; but she always recovered from it with a renewed exuberance which made such phases rather agreeable than otherwise. No one ever took less heed about danger, and never woman had more contempt for scruples and duties: she never recognised other than that of pleasing her lover."

[1] This nobleman died at Rome in December, 1867, at the age of sixty-five, having gone thither to aid the Pope against the Garibaldians.

This epigrammatic sketch is almost worthy of the exaggerated author of the Historiettes,[2] and the reader is advised to accept only its more salient and truthful traits—the keen and accurate glance of Mdme. de Chevreuse in scanning the prevailing aspect of the political horizon, her dauntless courage, the fidelity and devotion of her love. Retz, moreover, mistakes entirely the order of her adventures; he forgets and then invents. In striving after epigrammatic point, he sacrifices truth to smartness of style, and writes as though he looked upon events in which the passions of the Duchess made her take part as mere trifles, whereas among them there were some than which none were ever of graver or even more tragic moment.

[2] Tallement des Reaux.

Mdme. de Chevreuse, in fact, possessed almost all the qualities befitting a great politician. One alone was wanting, and precisely that without which all the others tended to her ruin. She failed to select for pursuit a legitimate object, or rather she did not choose one for herself, but left it to another to choose for her. Mdme. de Chevreuse was womanly in the highest possible degree; that quality was alike her strength and her weakness. Her secret mainspring was love, or rather gallantry,[3] and the interest of him whom she loved became her paramount object. It is this which explains the wonderful sagacity, finesse, and energy she displayed in the vain pursuit of a chimerical aim, which ever receded before her, and seemed to draw her on by the very prestige of difficulty and danger. La Rochefoucauld accuses her of having brought misfortune upon all those whom she loved;[4] it is equally the truth to add that all those whom she loved hurried her in the sequel into insensate enterprises. It was not she evidently who made of Buckingham a species of paladin without genius; a brilliant adventurer of Charles IV. of Lorraine; of Chalais a hair-brained blunderer, rash enough to commit himself in a conspiracy against Richelieu, on the faith of the faithless Duke d'Orleans; of Chateauneuf, an ambitious statesman, impatient of holding second rank in the Government, without being capable of taking the first. Let no one imagine that he is acquainted with Mdme. de Chevreuse from having merely studied the foregoing portrait traced by De Retz, for that sketch is an exaggeration and over-charged like all those from the same pen, and was destined to amuse the malignant curiosity of Mdme. de Caumartin—for without being altogether false, it is of a severity pushed to the verge of injustice. Was it becoming, one might ask, of the restless and licentious Coadjutor to constitute himself the remorseless censor of a woman whose errors he shared? Did he not deceive himself as much and for a far longer period than she? Did he show more address in political strategy or courage in the dangerous strife, more intrepidity and constancy in defeat? But Mdme. de Chevreuse has not written memoirs in that free-and-easy and piquant style the constant aim of which is self-elevation, obtained at the expense of everybody else. There are two judges of her character the testimony of whose acts must be held to be above suspicion—Richelieu and Mazarin. Richelieu did all in his power to win her over, and not being able to succeed, he treated her as an enemy worthy of himself.

[3] Mdme. de Motteville.

[4] Memoires, Petitot's Collection, 2nd series, vol. li. p. 339.

To revert briefly to her long-continued struggle with Richelieu, it must not be forgotten that for twenty years she had been the personal friend and favourite of Anne of Austria, and for ten years she had suffered persecution and privation on that account. Exiled, proscribed, and threatened with imprisonment, she had narrowly escaped Richelieu's grasp by disguising herself in male attire, and in that garb traversing France and Spain on horseback, had succeeded in eluding his pursuit, and after many adventures in safely reaching Madrid. Philip IV. not only heaped every kind of honour upon his sister's courageous favourite, but even, it is said, swelled the number of her conquests. Whilst in the Spanish capital she had allied herself politically with the Minister Olivarez, and obtained great ascendancy over the Cabinet of Madrid. The war between France and Spain necessarily rendering her position in the latter country delicate and embarrassing, she had, early in 1638, sought refuge in England. Charles I. and Henrietta Maria gave her the warmest possible reception at St. James's; and the latter, on seeing again the distinguished countrywoman who had some years back conducted her as a bride from Paris to the English shores to the arms of Prince Charles, embraced her warmly, entered into all her troubles, and both the English King and Queen wrote letters pleading in her behalf, to Louis XIII., Anne of Austria, and Richelieu with regard to the restoration of her property and permission to rejoin her children at Dampierre. She herself resumed the links of a negotiation with the Cardinal which had never been entirely broken off, and the success of which seemed quite practicable, since it was almost equally desired by both. That negotiation was being carried on for more than a year, and when link after link had been frequently snapped and re-soldered, only to be once more broken, Richelieu at length gave his solemn word that she might return with perfect safety to Dampierre.

On the eve of her departure from the English Court, a vessel being in readiness to convey her to Dieppe, where a carriage awaited her landing, the Duchess received an anonymous letter warning her that certain ruin awaited her if she set foot on the soil of France, followed by another, still more explicit with regard to Richelieu's designs to effect her destruction, from no less a person than Charles of Lorraine. This second warning from so reliable a source, followed shortly afterwards by other advice—held by her in the light of a command—enchained her to a foreign land. She for whom during ten long years the Duchess had suffered all things, braved all things, her august friend Anne of Austria cautioned her not to trust to appearances. Thus vanished the last hope of a sincere reconciliation between two persons who knew each other too well to discard distrust and to confide in words, of which neither were sparing, without requiring solemn guarantees that they could not or would not give.

Choosing stoically, therefore, to still undergo the pangs of absence, to consume the noontide of the days of her attractive womanhood in privation and turmoil rather than risk her liberty, Mdme. de Chevreuse on her part did not remain idle. From the moment she felt convinced that Richelieu was deceiving her, attracting her back to France only to hold her in a state of dependence, and if need were, to incarcerate her—having broken with him, she considered herself as free from all scruple, and thought of nothing further than paying him back blow for blow. Her old duel with the Cardinal thus once more renewed, she formed in London, with the aid of the Duke de Vendome, La Vieuville, and La Valette, a faction of active and adroit emigrants, who, leaning on the Earl of Holland, then one of the chiefs of the Royalist party and a general in the army of Charles of England; upon Lord Montagu, an ardent Papist and intimate adviser of Queen Henrietta Maria; upon Digby and other men of influence at Court, maintained likewise the closest intelligence with the Court of Rome through its envoy in England, Rosetti, and especially with the Cabinet of Madrid; encouraging and kindling the hopes of all the proscribed and discontented, strewing obstacles at all points in the path of Richelieu, and accumulating formidable perils around his head.

On the breaking out of the Civil War in England, Mdme. de Chevreuse repaired to Brussels, where in 1641 we find her acting as the connecting link between England, Spain, and Lorraine. Without attributing to the Duchess any especial motive beyond seconding an enterprise directed against the common enemy, she did not the less play an important part in the affair of the Count de Soissons—the most formidable conspiracy that had hitherto been hatched against Richelieu. Anne of Austria was certainly privy to the plot and lent it her aid. She might have been ignorant of the secret treaty with Spain; but for all the rest, and so far as it menaced the Cardinal, she had a perfect understanding with the conspirators. That high-handed Minister, by overstraining the springs of government, by prolonging the war, by increasing the public expenditure, and by oppressing all classes whilst he crushed some in particular, had excited a hatred so bitter and widespread that at length he governed the State almost entirely through terror. Whilst the grandeur of his designs commanded respect and veneration from a select few, his genius towered above the bulk of his countrymen. But that harsh rule, continuing unrelaxed, and so many sacrifices being perpetually renewed, at length wearied out the greater number, the King himself not excepted. Louis's reigning favourite, the Grand-Ecuyer, Cinq Mars, undermined and blackened the Cardinal as much as possible in his royal master's estimation. He knew of the conspiracy of the Count de Soissons, and without taking a share in it, he favoured it. He might therefore be reckoned upon to figure in the next. The Queen, still in disgrace in spite of the two heirs she had given to the crown, naturally breathed vows for the termination of a rule which so oppressed her. Gaston, the King's brother, had pledged his word, however little the reliance that might be placed upon it; but the Duke de Bouillon, an experienced soldier and an eminent politician, had openly declared himself; and his stronghold of Sedan, situated on the frontiers of France and Belgium, offered an asylum whence could be braved for a long while all the power of the Cardinal. A widespread understanding had been established throughout every part of the kingdom, amongst the clergy, and in the Parliament. There were conspirators in the very Bastille itself, where Marshal de Vitry and the Count de Cramail, prisoners as they were, had prepared a coup de main with an admirably-kept secrecy. The Abbe de Retz, then twenty-five, preluded his adventurous career by this attempt at civil war. The Duke de Guise, having effected his escape from Rheims, and taken refuge in the Low Countries, was about to share the dangers of the conspiracy at Sedan. But the greatest—the firmest—hope of the Count de Soissons rested upon Spain: that power alone could enable him to take the field from Sedan, to march upon Paris, and crush the power of Richelieu. He therefore despatched Alexandre de Campion, one of his bravest and most intelligent gentlemen, to Brussels to negotiate with the Spanish Ministers and obtain from them troops and money. There he addressed himself to Mdme. de Chevreuse, and confided to her the mission with which he was charged, which she hastened to second with all her influence. Having prevailed upon Olivarez to strenuously support those requirements which the Count de Soissons and the Duke de Bouillon sought at his hands, she despatched letters by a secret agent in the service of Spain to the Duke de Lorraine, entreating him not to fail her in this supreme opportunity of repairing her past misfortunes and of dealing a mortal blow to their remorseless enemy. The Duke Charles, thus solicited at once by Mdme. de Chevreuse, by his kinsman the Duke de Guise, by the Spanish Minister, and, more than all, by his own restless and adventurous ambition, broke the solemn compact he had so recently made with France, entered into an alliance with Spain and the Count de Soissons, and prepared with all diligence to march to the aid of Sedan. And whilst Mdme. de Chevreuse and the emigrants brought into play every engine they could lay hands on, Lamboy and Metternich set out for Flanders at the head of six thousand Imperialists. France—all the nationalities of Europe, were on the tiptoe of expectation. Richelieu had never been menaced with a greater danger, and the loss of the battle of Marfee would have proved a fatal event had not the Count de Soissons met his death simultaneously with his triumph.

If Mdme. de Chevreuse were a stranger in 1642 to the fresh conspiracy of Gaston, Duke d'Orleans, Cinq Mars, and the Duke de Bouillon against her relentless foe, it would have been the only one in which she had not taken a leading part. It is indeed more than probable that she was in the secret as well as Queen Anne, whose understanding with Gaston and Cinq Mars cannot be contested. La Rochefoucauld repeatedly remarks touching a matter in which he seems to have been implicated, "The dazzling reputation of M. le Grand (Cinq Mars) rekindled the hopes of the discontented; the Queen and the Duke d'Orleans united with him; the Duke de Bouillon and several persons of quality did the same." De Bouillon also declares that the Queen was closely allied with Gaston and the Grand-Ecuyer, and that she herself had invited his concurrence. "The Queen, whom the Cardinal had persecuted in such a variety of ways, did not doubt that, if the King should chance to die, that minister would seek to deprive her of her children, in order to assume the Regency himself. She secretly instigated De Thou to seek the Duke de Bouillon with persevering entreaties. She asked the latter whether, in the event of the King's death, he would promise to receive her and her two children in his stronghold of Sedan, believing—so firmly persuaded was she of the evil designs of the Cardinal, and of his power—that there was no other place of safety for them throughout the realm of France." De Thou further told the Duke de Bouillon that since the King's illness the Queen and the Duke d'Orleans were very closely allied, and that it was through Cinq Mars that their alliance had been brought about. Now, where the Queen was so deeply implicated it was not likely that Mdme. de Chevreuse would stand aloof. A friend of Richelieu, whose name has not come down to us, but who must have been perfectly well informed, does not hesitate to place Mdme. de Chevreuse as well as the Queen amongst those who then endeavoured to overthrow Richelieu. "M. le Grand," he writes to the Cardinal,[5] "has been urged to his wicked designs by the Queen-mother, by her daughter (Henrietta Maria), by the Queen of France, by Mdme. de Chevreuse, by Montagu, and other English Papists." At length the Cardinal, on an early day in June, 1642, retired to Tarascon, ostensibly for the sake of his health, but doubtless for safety also, accompanied by his two bosom friends, Mazarin and Chavigny, and the faithful regiments of his guards. Finding himself surrounded by peril on all sides, and representing to Louis XIII. the gravity of the situation, he cited that which had been alleged of Mdme. de Chevreuse as amongst the most striking indications of the truth of what he stated.[6]

[5] Archives des Affaires Etrangeres; FRANCE, tom. CI.

[6] Archives des Affaires Etrangeres; FRANCE, tom. cii. Inedited Memoir of Richelieu.

But what was the party in fact then conspiring against Richelieu? Was it not the party of former coalitions—of the League, of Austria, and of Spain? And Mdme. Chevreuse at Brussels, through her connection with the Duke de Lorraine, the Queen of England, the Chevalier de Jars at Rome, the Minister Olivarez at Madrid—was she not one of the great motive powers of that party? When, therefore, such machinery was found to be again in activity, it was quite reasonable to suspect the hand of Mdme. de Chevreuse in all its movements.

The gathering cloud that now lowered so thick and threatening above the head of Richelieu seemed pregnant with inevitable destruction to his power and life. But ere long his eagle glance pierced through the overshadowing gloom, and the aim of Cinq Mars' dark intrigue became clearly revealed to his far-seeing introspection. A treachery, the secret of which has remained impenetrable to every research made during the last two centuries, caused the treaty concluded with Spain through the intervention of Fontrailles, and bearing the signatures of Gaston, Cinq Mars, and the Duke de Bouillon, to fall into his hands. From that instant the Cardinal felt certain of victory. He knew Louis XIII. thoroughly; he conjectured that he might in some access of his morbid and changeful humour have uttered reproachful words against his Minister in the favourite's ear—even expressed a wish to be rid of him, as did our first Plantagenet when tired of the despotism of Thomas a Becket—and had perhaps listened to strange proposals for effecting such object. But the Cardinal knew right well also to what extent Louis was a king and a Frenchman, and devoted by self-interest to their common system. He despatched, therefore, Chavigny in all haste from Narbonne with irrefragable evidence of the treaty made with Spain. Louis, thunderstricken, could scarcely believe his own eyes. He sank into a gloomy reverie, out of which he emerged only to give way to bursts of indignation against the favourite who could thus abuse his confidence and conspire with the foreigner. It was needless to inflame his anger, he was the first to call for an exemplary punishment. Not for a day, not for an hour, did his heart soften towards the youthful culprit who had been so dear to him. He thought only of his crime, and signed without an instant's hesitation his death-warrant. If Louis the Just spared the Duke de Bouillon, it was merely to acquire Sedan. If he pardoned his brother Gaston, he at the same time dishonoured him by depriving him of all authority in the State. Upon a report spread by a servant of Fontrailles, and which Fontrailles' memoirs fully confirm, his suspicions were directed towards the Queen; and no one afterwards could divest his mind of the conviction that in this instance, as in the affair of Chalais, Anne of Austria had an understanding with his brother, the Duke d'Orleans. What would he have done had he perused the statement of Fontrailles, the Duke de Bouillon's memoirs, a letter of Turenne, and the declaration of La Rochefoucauld? Their united testimony is so concordant that it is altogether irresistible. The Queen racked her brains to exorcise this fresh storm, and to persuade the King and Richelieu of her innocence. Anne went much farther; she did not confine herself to falsehood and dissimulation. Menaced by imminent danger, she went so far as to repudiate that courageous friend who had been so long and steadfastly devoted to her. Had fortune declared in her favour she would have embraced the Duchess as a deliverer. Vanquished and disarmed, she abandoned her. As she had protested in terms of horror against the conspiracy that had failed, her two young, imprudent, and ill-starred accomplices, Cinq Mars and De Thou, mounted the scaffold without breathing her name. Finding also both the King and Richelieu violently exasperated against Mdme. de Chevreuse, and firmly resolved to reject the renewed entreaties of her family to obtain her recall, Anne of Austria, far from interceding for her faithful adherent, warmly sided with her enemies; and further, to indicate the change in her own sentiments, and seem to applaud that which she could not prevent, she asked as an especial favour that the Duchess might be estranged from her person, and even from France. "The Queen," wrote Chavigny, Richelieu's Minister for Foreign Affairs, "has pointedly asked me if it were true that Mdme. de Chevreuse would return; and, without waiting for a reply, she signified to me that she should be vexed to find her presently in France; that she now saw the Duchess in her proper light; and she commanded me to pray His Eminence on her part, if he had any mind to favour Mdme. de Chevreuse, that it might be done without granting her permission to return to France. I assured her Majesty that she should have satisfaction on that point."[7]

[7] Archives des Affaires Etrangeres, FRANCE, tom. CI.

Poor Marie de Rohan! Her heart already bled from many wounds, but this last was the "unkindest cut of all." Her position had indeed become frightful, and calculated to sink her to the lowest depth of despair. No hope of seeing her native land again, her princely chateau, her children, her favourite daughter Charlotte! Deriving scarcely anything from France, deeply in debt, and with credit exhausted, she found herself entirely at the end of her resources. How thoroughly did the banished woman then realise the woes of exile—how hard it is to climb and descend the stranger's stair, experience the hollowness of his promise, and the arrogance of his commiseration. And, finally, as though fated to drain her cup of bitterness to the last drop, to learn that she, her long-loved bosom friend and royal mistress, who owed her, at the very least, a silent fidelity, had openly ranged herself on the side of fortune and Richelieu!

In a condition of mental torture the most acute, resulting from such accumulated misfortune, Madame de Chevreuse remained for several months with no other support than that of her innate high-souled courage. At length, towards the close of that eventful year, the golden grooves of change rung out a joyous paean to gladden the heart of the much-enduring exile. Suddenly Marie—all Europe—heard with a throb that the inscrutable, iron-handed man of all the human race most dreaded alike by States as by individuals, had yielded to a stronger power than his own, and had closed his eyes in death (December 4, 1642). Within a few short months afterwards the King also, whose regal power he had consolidated at such a cost in blood and suffering, followed the great statesman to the tomb; having entrusted the Regency, very much against his will, to the Queen, but controlled by a Council, over which presided as Prime Minister the man most devoted to Richelieu's system—his closest friend, confidant, and creature—Jules Mazarin.

A passage in the funeral oration on Louis XIII. summed up briefly but significantly the result of Richelieu's gigantic efforts to consolidate the regal power. "Sixty-three kings," it said, "had preceded him in rule of the realm, but he alone had rendered it absolute, and what all collectively had been impotent to achieve in the course of twelve centuries for the grandeur of France, he had accomplished in the short space of thirty-three years." It was against that absolute power incarnate in Richelieu, which from the steps of the throne hurled men to the earth with its bolts rather than governed them, that Mazarin was destined later to encounter the reaction of the Fronde.

Distrustful of leaving Anne of Austria in uncontrolled possession of regal authority, Louis by his last will and testament had placed royalty, including his brother Gaston as lieutenant-general of the realm, in a manner under a commission. And further, Louis did not believe that he could ensure quiet to the State after his death without confirming and perpetuating, so far as in him lay, the perpetual exile of Madame de Chevreuse.

As the pupil and confidential friend of Richelieu, Mazarin had imbibed both that statesman's and the late king's opinions and sentiments touching the influence of that eminently dangerous woman. Though he had never seen her hitherto, he was not the less well acquainted with her by repute: dreading her mortally, and cherishing a like antipathy to her friend Chateauneuf. He knew the Duchess to be as seductive as she was talented, experienced and courageous in party strife—an instance of which was that she could sway entirely a man of such ambition and capacity as the former Keeper of the Seals. Attached, moreover, in secret to Lorraine, to Austria, and to Spain, all this was as absolutely incompatible with the exclusive favour to which he aspired at the hands of his royal mistress as it was with all his diplomatic and military designs. The solemn injunctions of the late king's will, while denouncing Madame de Chevreuse and Chateauneuf as the two most illustrious victims of the close of his reign, embodied also the heads of the policy which it was that monarch's wish should be continued by Richelieu's successor. "Forasmuch," ran the will, "that for weighty reasons, important to the welfare of our State, we found ourselves compelled to deprive the Sieur de Chateauneuf of the post of Keeper of the Seals of France, and have him sent to the Castle of Angouleme, in which he has remained by our command up to the present time, we will and intend that the said Sieur de Chateauneuf remain in the same state in which he is at present, in the said Castle of Angouleme, until after the peace be concluded and executed; under charge, nevertheless, that he shall not then be set at liberty save by the order of the Queen-Regent, under the advice of her Council, which shall appoint a place to which he shall retire, within the realm or without the realm, as may be judged best. And as our design is to take foresight of all such subjects as may possibly in some way or other disturb the precautionary arrangements which we have made to preserve the repose and safety of our realm, the knowledge that we have of the bad conduct of the Lady Duchess de Chevreuse, of the artifices which she has employed up to this moment without the kingdom with our enemies, made us judge it fitting to forbid her, as we do, entrance into our kingdom during the war: desiring even that after the peace be concluded and executed she may not return into our kingdom, save only under the orders of the said Lady Queen-Regent, with the advice of the said Council, under charge, nevertheless, that she shall not either take up her abode or be in any place near to the Court or to the said Queen-Regent."

Within a few days only after the decease of Louis XIII. that same Parliament which had enrolled his will reformed it. The Queen-Regent was freed from every fetter and restriction, and invested with almost absolute sovereignty; the ban was removed from the proscribed couple so solemnly denounced, Chateauneuf's prison doors were thrown open, and Madame de Chevreuse quitted Brussels triumphantly, with a cortege of twenty carriages, filled with lords and ladies of the highest rank in that Court, to return once more to France and to the side of her royal friend and mistress.



AFTER ten years' absence from the scene of her former triumphs, social and political, did the brilliant Duchess then once more find herself safe and free in France. The Gazette de Renaudot—the Moniteur of that day—recording the return of Madame de Chevreuse, on the 14th of June, 1643, remarks[1]:—"During such long exile, this princess has manifested what an elevated mind like hers can do, in spite of all those vicissitudes of fortune which her constancy has surmounted. The Duchess went to pay homage to their Majesties, during which visit she received so many tokens of affection from the Queen-Regent, and gave her in return such proofs of her zeal in everything relating to her service, and so much resignation to her will, that it indeed appears that length of time, distance, or thorny asperities can only prevail over common minds. Hence the great train of visitors from this Court to her daily, and for which her spacious hotel scarcely affords room, does not excite so much wonder as the fact which has been the subject of remark, that the fatigue consequent upon long journeys and the rigour of adverse fortune have worked no change in her magnanimity, nor—which is the more extraordinary—in her beauty."

[1] No. lxxvii. p. 579.

Making due allowance for the inflated diction of the complaisant Court newswriter, let us endeavour to approach somewhat nearer to the truth.

Madame de Chevreuse had then entered upon her forty-third year. Though still surprisingly well-preserved, her beauty, tried by adversity, was visibly on the decline. The inclination to gallantry still existed, but subdued, politics having gained the supremacy. She had formed the acquaintance of, and held political relations with, the most celebrated statesmen in Europe. She had figured at almost all its Courts, the strength and weakness of its several Governments were known to her, and in her wanderings, having seen "men and cities," she had acquired a large experience. The tried favourite hoped to find Anne of Austria the same as she had left her—averse to business, and very willing to allow herself to be led by those for whom she had a particular affection; and as Madame de Chevreuse had been in her youthful days paramount in the Queen's affection, she fully expected to exercise over her that twofold ascendancy which love and capacity would jointly give. More ambitious for her friends than for herself, she saw them already rewarded for their long sacrifices, replacing everywhere the creatures of Richelieu, and at their head, in the highest post, as first minister, him who for her sake had broken with the triumphant Cardinal, and had endured an imprisonment of ten tedious years. She did not care much about Mazarin, with whom she had no acquaintance, whom she had never seen, and who appeared to her unsupported either by the Court or the French nation, whilst she felt herself sustained by all that was illustrious, powerful, and accredited therein. She believed that she could make sure of the Duke d'Orleans through his wife, the beautiful Margaret, sister of Charles of Lorraine. She could dispose almost at will of the Houses of Rohan and Lorraine, particularly of the Duke de Guise and the Duke d'Elbeuf, like herself just returned from Flanders. She reckoned upon the Vendomes, upon the Duke d'Epernon, upon La Vieuville, her old companions in exile in England; upon the ill-treated Bouillons, upon La Rochefoucauld, whose disposition and pretensions were so well known to her; upon Lord Montagu, who had been her slave, and at that moment possessed the entire confidence of Anne of Austria; upon La Chatre, the friend of the Vendomes, and Colonel-General of the Swiss Guards; upon Treville, upon Beringhen, upon Jars, upon La Porte, who were all emerging from exile, prison, and disgrace. Among the women, her young stepmother and her sister-in-law seemed secure—Madame de Montbazon and Madame de Guemene, the two greatest beauties of the time, who drew after them a numerous crowd of old and young adorers. She knew also that among the first acts of the Regent had been the recall to her side of the two noble victims of Richelieu—Madame de Senece and Madame de Hautefort, whose virtue and piety had conspired so beneficially with other influences, and had given them an inestimable weight in the household of Anne of Austria. All those calculations seemed accurate, all those hopes well-founded; and Madame de Chevreuse left Brussels firmly persuaded that she was about to re-enter the Louvre as a conqueress. She deceived herself: the Queen was already changed, or very nearly so.

To show due honour to her former favourite, however, Anne of Austria despatched La Rochefoucauld to greet and escort her homewards; but before he set out she charged him to inform the Duchess of the altered disposition in which she would find her royal mistress. During that audience Rochefoucauld did his utmost to reinstate his charming friend and close ally in the Queen's good graces. "I spoke to her," says he, "with more freedom perhaps than was becoming. I set before her Madame de Chevreuse's fidelity, her long-continued services, and the severity of the misfortunes which they had entailed upon her. I entreated her to consider of what fickleness she would be thought capable, and what interpretation might be placed upon such inconsiderateness if she should prefer Cardinal Mazarin to Madame de Chevreuse. Our conversation was long and stormy, and I saw clearly that I had exasperated her." He then started to meet the Duchess on the road from Brussels, and found her at Roye, whither Montagu had already preceded him. Montagu had travelled to Roye to place Mazarin's homage at the feet of Madame de Chevreuse, with the view of bringing about at any cost an union and identity of policy between the old and the new favourite. He was no longer the gay and sprightly Walter Montagu, the friend of Holland and Buckingham, the enamoured knight ever ready to break a lance against all comers for a glance of the bright eyes of Madame de Chevreuse. Time had changed him as well as others: he had become a bigot and a devotee, and already contemplated taking orders in the Church of Rome. He still remained, however, attached to the object of his former adoration, but above all he belonged to the Queen, and consequently resigned to Mazarin. La Rochefoucauld—ever ready to ascribe to himself the chief share in any undertaking in which he figured, as well as the character of a great politician—asserts that he entreated Madame de Chevreuse not to attempt at first to govern the Queen, but to endeavour solely to regain in Anne's mind and heart that place of which it had been sought to deprive her, and to put herself in a position in which she would be able to protect or ruin the Cardinal, according to conduct or circumstances emanating from himself.

The Duchess listened attentively to the advice of both her old friends, promised to follow it, and did so in fact, but in her own peculiar way, and in that of the interest of the party she had so long served, and which she would not abandon. As Anne of Austria seemed much pleased at seeing the noble wanderer again, and gave her a warm reception, Marie did not perceive any difference in the Queen's sentiments, and flattered herself that by constant assiduousness she would ere long resume that sway over the Regent's mind she had formerly exercised.

Operating against this not unreasonable expectation of Madame de Chevreuse, Mazarin had a silent but potent ally in the newly-awakened inclination of Anne for repose and a tranquil life. The first draughts of almost supreme power tasted by the long-oppressed Queen were not yet embittered by faction and anarchy. In bygone days, insult, neglect, and persecution had stirred her at intervals into mental activity, and urged her upon dangerous courses; but now, having obtained all she aimed at, happy, and beginning to form attachments, she entertained a dread of troublesome adventures and hazardous enterprises. She therefore feared Madame de Chevreuse quite as much as she loved her. The astute Cardinal anxiously strove to foster such distrust. He looked for support from the Princess de Conde, then high in the Queen's favour, both through her own merit as well as that of the Prince her husband, but more than all through the brilliant exploits of her son, the Duke d'Enghien; through the services also of her son-in-law the Duke de Longueville, who had, with honourable distinction, commanded the armies of Italy and Germany, and by her recently-married daughter, Madame de Longueville, already the darling of the salons and the Court. The Princess, like Queen Anne, had in the heyday of her beauty been fond of homage and gallantry, but had now grown serious, and displayed a somewhat lively piety. She held Madame de Chevreuse in aversion, and detested Chateauneuf, who, in 1632, at Toulouse, had presided at the trial and condemnation of her brother, Henri de Montmorency. She therefore had striven, in concert with Mazarin, to destroy or at least weaken Madame de Chevreuse's hold upon the Queen. Armed with the last will of Louis XIII., they had made it appear something like a fault in the Queen's eyes to disregard it so soon and so entirely. They had given her to understand that former days and associations could never return; that the amusements and passions of early youth were but "evil accompaniments"[2] of a later period of life; that now she was before all things a mother and a Queen; that Madame de Chevreuse, dissipated and carried away by passion, and cherishing the same inclination for gallantry and idle vanity as hitherto, was no longer worthy of her confidence; that she had brought good fortune to no one; and that in lavishing wealth and honour upon the Duchess the debt of gratitude she owed her would be sufficiently discharged.

[2] Madame de Motteville, tom. i. p. 162.—"Mauvais accompagnements."




AND now what was the actual position of Mazarin on succeeding to power in 1643?

Richelieu had died admired and abhorred. The people, glad to be delivered from so heavy a yoke, obeyed with joy the incipient rule of the Queen-Regent. The courtiers were at first enchanted with a Government that refused nothing asked of it. It appeared, as one of the number said, that there were no more than five little words in the French language: "La reine est si bonne!"[1] The State prisons threw open their gates; the rights of parliaments were respected; the princes of the blood and the great nobles were restored to their governorships. There was for a season one unanimous concert of praise and thanksgiving. But when the princes and parliaments were desirous, as before Richelieu's rule, of participating in the general direction of the State, and especially in the distribution of place and patronage, great was the surprise of both at finding a steady resistance on the part of the Queen-Regent. To see her manifest a disposition to govern without them was looked upon as something scandalous. Every attempt she made thenceforward to retain a power which they evaded, or to repossess herself of that which she had imprudently suffered to escape from her grasp, seemed to them nothing less than a continuation of the odious system of Richelieu. Their exasperation was increased to the highest degree, therefore, when they beheld her give her entire confidence to a foreigner, to a Cardinal, to a creature of Richelieu. By that triple title Mazarin was equally hateful to the great nobles, the members of parliament, and the middle class. The tyranny of Richelieu had in the end attained to something noble by the high-handed heedlessness of all his acts. If the people were to be trampled on, it was a species of consolation that their oppressor was feared by others as well as themselves. But that the oppression of the doomed French nation was to be continued by a more ignoble hand was altogether intolerable. Frenchmen had begun to ask one another, who was this Mazarin who had come to rule over them? He could not—like Richelieu—boast of his high birth, of descent from a long line of noble ancestors—Frenchmen. Poets and romancers, ye whose imaginations delight to dwell upon sudden downfalls and rapid rises, mark well that little lad at play upon the Sicilian shore near the town of Mazzara! Springing from the lowest of the plebeian class, his family have not even a surname. He is the son of one Pierre, a fisherman, whose humble hut stands yonder beneath the cliff. But a day will come when that lowly-born lad, joining his baptismal name to that of the town which sheltered his cradle, will become Jules de Mazarin, robed in the Roman purple, quartering his shield with the consular fasces of Julius Caesar, governing France, and through her preparing and influencing the destinies of entire Europe.

[1] De Retz Memoirs, Petitot Collection.

It was not, however, by easy steps that Richelieu's disciple and successor obtained a firm grasp of that plenary power which the master mind of the former had consolidated and long wielded so grandly and terribly. The Queen herself at the commencement of the Regency had not yet renounced her former friendships. During a considerable portion of her married life Anne had impatiently endured the slights and disparagements to which she was so long subjected, both by her husband and his Minister. Through engaging in divers dangerous and unsuccessful enterprises, she had been deprived of all influence, and was a queen only in name. But, a woman and a Spaniard, she had descended to dissimulation, and in that "ugly but necessary virtue"[2] made rapid progress. Up to the time of Richelieu's death she had played a double game—made partisans in secret, with the object of subverting the Cardinal's power, whilst feigning the semblance of friendship towards him, and did not scruple to humiliate herself on occasions, in order to carry her point. After that great man's decease, through rare patience, great caution, and a persistent line of conduct, she ultimately attained that for which she had been willing to make any and every sacrifice—the Regency. During the King's last illness, the mistrusted Queen and wife had profited by Mazarin's unhoped-for service, as Prime Minister, in prevailing over the unwillingness of the dying King to appoint her custodian of his son, and Regent during his minority. She regarded this, therefore, as a first and most important service on the part of Mazarin towards her, and for which she felt proportionately grateful. Such was the Cardinal's first stepping-stone to the good graces of Anne of Austria, and his twofold talent both as a laborious and indefatigable statesman and a consummate courtier, speedily helped to secure for him her entire confidence. The singular personal resemblance he bore to that desperate enamorado of her early womanhood, the brilliant Buckingham, may probably also have served him as a favourable prestige. On her accession to power Anne did not manifest much firmness of character. Naturally indolent, she disliked the drudgery attendant upon business details, and hence continued through convenience the services of a man who, by taking off her hands the wearisome routine of State affairs, allowed her to reign at her ease.

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