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The Life of Marie de Medicis, Vol. 1 (of 3) by Julia Pardoe

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Queen of France











These Volumes





All the existing records of European royalty do not, probably, comprise
the annals of a life of greater vicissitude than that which has been
chosen as the subject of the present work. We find numerous examples in
history of Queens who have suffered exile, imprisonment, and death; but
we believe that the unfortunate Marie de Medicis is the only
authenticated instance of a total abandonment on the part alike of her
family and friends, which terminated almost in starvation. Certain it is
that after having occupied the throne of France, presided over its
Councils, and given birth to the ancestor of a long line of Princes, she
was ultimately indebted to the sympathy and attachment of a foreign
artist, of whom she had once been the zealous patron, for a roof under
which to terminate her miserable existence! The whole life of this
ill-fated Queen is, indeed, full of startling contrasts from which the
mind shrinks back appalled; and her entire career is so freighted with
alternate grandeur and privation that it is difficult to reconcile the
possibility of their having fallen to the share of the same individual;
and this too in an age when France, above all other nations, boasted of
its chivalry, and when some of the greatest names that have ever figured
in its annals gave grace and glory to its history.

The times were, moreover, as remarkable as the men by whom they were
illustrated; for despite the civil and foreign wars by which they were
so unhappily distinguished, the arts flourished, and the spread of
political liberty became apparent; although it is equally certain that
they were at the same time fatal alike to the aristocracy and to the
magistrature; and that they rapidly paved the way to the absolutism of
Louis XIV, to the shameless saturnalia of the Regency, and to the
dishonouring and degrading excesses of Louis XV, who may justly be said
to have prepared by his licentiousness the scaffold of his successor.

During several centuries the French monarchs had indulged in a blind
egotism, which rendered them unable to appreciate the effects of their
own errors upon their subjects. L'ETAT C'EST MOI had unfortunately been
practically their ruling principle long ere Louis XIV ventured to put it
into words. To them the Court was the universe, the aristocracy the
nation, and the Church the corner-stone of the proud altar upon which
they had enthroned themselves, and beyond which they cared not either to
look or listen. A fatal mistake fatally expiated! Yet, as we have
already remarked, the system, dangerous and hollow as it was, endured
for centuries--endured until crime was heaped on crime, and the fearful
holocaust towered towards Heaven as if to appeal for vengeance. And that
vengeance came! It had been long delayed; so long indeed that when the
brilliant courtiers of Versailles were told of disaffection among the
masses, and warned to conciliate ere it was too late the goodwill of
their inferiors, they listened with contemptuous carelessness to the
tardy caution, and scorned to place themselves in competition with those
untitled classes whom they had long ceased to regard as their
fellow-men. But the voice of the people is like the stroke of the hammer
upon the anvil; it not only makes itself heard, but, however great may
be the original resistance, finishes by fashioning the metal upon which
it falls after its own will.

During the reign of Louis XIII this great and fatal truth had not yet
been impressed upon the French nation, for the popular voice was stifled
beneath the ukase of despotism; and even the _tiers-etat_--important as
the loyalty of that portion of a kingdom must ever be to its
rulers--were treated with disdain and contumely; but beneath all the
workings of his government (or rather the government of his minister,
for the son of Marie de Medicis was a monarch only in name), may be
traced the undercurrent of popular indignation and discontent, which,
gradually swelling and rising during the two succeeding reigns, finally
overthrew with its giant waves the last frail barrier which still
upreared itself before a time-honoured throne.

The incapacity of the King, the venality of the Princes, the arrogance
of the hierarchy, the insubordination of the nobles, the licentiousness
of the Court, the despotism of the Government; all the errors and all
the vices of their rulers, were jealously noted and bitterly registered
by an oppressed and indignant people; but it required time to shake off
a yoke which had been so long borne that it had eaten into the flesh;
nor, moreover, were the minds of the masses in that age sufficiently
awakened to a sense of their own collective power to enable them, as
they did in the following century, to measure their strength with those
upon whom they had been so long accustomed to look with fear and awe.

There cannot, moreover, exist the slightest doubt that the wantonness
with which Richelieu, in furtherance of his own private interests,
poured out so freely on the scaffold some of the proudest blood of
France, did much towards destroying that prestige which had hitherto
environed the high nobility. When Biron perished upon the block,
although his death was decreed by the sovereign, and that sovereign,
moreover, was their own idolized Henri IV, the people marvelled and even
murmured; but in after-years they learned through the teaching of the
Cardinal that nobles were merely men; while the exile of the persecuted
Marie de Medicis, and the privations to which she was exposed through
his agency, taught them that even royalty itself was not invulnerable to
the malice or vengeance of its opponents; and unhappily for those by
whom Richelieu was succeeded in power, the lesson brought forth its
fruits in due season.

Thus much premised, I shall confine myself to a brief explanation of the
manner in which I have endeavoured to perform my self-imposed task. For
one wilful, but as I trust excusable, inaccuracy, I throw myself on the
indulgence of my critics. Finding my pages already overloaded with
names, and that they must consequently induce a considerable strain upon
the memory of such readers as might not chance to be intimately
acquainted with the domestic history of the period under consideration,
I have, from the commencement of the work, designated the Duc de Sully
by the title which he ultimately attained, and by which he is
universally known, rather than confuse the mind of my readers by
allusions to M. de Bethune, M. de Rosny, and finally M. de Sully, when
each and all merely signified the same individual; and I feel persuaded
that this arrangement will be generally regarded as a judicious one,
inasmuch as it tends to lessen a difficulty already sufficiently great;
a fact which will be at once apparent on reference to the biographical
table at the head of each volume.

On the other hand I have, contrary to my previous system, but in justice
to myself, carefully, and even perhaps somewhat elaborately, multiplied
the footnotes, in order to give with precision the several authorities
whence I deduced my facts; and I must be excused should this caution
appear uselessly tedious or pedantic to the general reader, as I am
anxious on this occasion to escape the accusation which was once brought
against me when it was equally undeserved, of having "quoted at
secondhand," and even drawn my materials from "historical romances of
the time." It is, of course, easy to make assertions of this nature at
random; but when a writer feels that he or she has conscientiously
performed a duty voluntarily undertaken, it is painful to be misjudged;
especially when, as in the present instance, nearly three years have
been devoted to the work.

For the facsimile letters by which my volumes are enriched I am indebted
to the kindness of M. de la Plane, a member of the Institut Royal de
France, of whose extensive and valuable cabinet of ancient records they
now form a part; and by whom their publication was obligingly
authorized. The authenticity of these letters admits of no doubt, as it
is known that they originally formed a portion of the rich collection of
autographs in the possession of the Marechal de Bassompierre, to whom
they were severally addressed; and that at his death they were
transferred to the library of the Fathers of the Oratory at St. Magloire
in Paris; whence (it is believed at the Revolution) they fell into the
hands of a member of that celebrated society, Le Pere de Mevolhon,
formerly Canon and Vicar-General of the diocese of St. Omer, by whom
they were presented to M. de la Plane.

At the time when he so kindly entrusted to me the letters above named,
the same obliging friend also confided to my care, with full permission
to make whatever use of it I should see fit, an unpublished MS.
consisting of nearly twelve thousand pages closely written, and divided
into twenty-four volumes small quarto, all undeniably the work of one
hand. This elaborate MS. was entitled "Memoirs of M. le Commandeur de
Rambure, Captain of the regiment of French Guards, Gentleman of the
Bedchamber under the Kings Henri IV, Louis XIII, and Louis XIV surnamed
the Great, with all the most memorable events which took place during
the reigns of those three Majesties, from the year 1594 to that
of 1660."

The author of this voluminous MS., who, at the age of eighty-one,
inscribes his work to his _uncle_, Monseigneur de Rambure, Bishop of
Vannes, and who professes to have ventured thus tardily upon his
Herculean undertaking at the request, and for the instruction, of his
nephew the Marquis de Rambure, lays strict injunctions upon his
successors to keep the record of his life to themselves; alleging as his
reason a dread of injuring by his revelations the interests of the young
courtier, who had succeeded to his own post of Gentleman of the
Bedchamber; "and that," as he proceeds to say, "to the greatest King in
the world, by whom he has the honour to be loved and esteemed; therefore
I pray you that this writing may never be printed, in order not to make
him enemies, who are too ready to come without being sought by our
imprudence; and because I have only composed these Memoirs for myself
and my kindred." [1]

The author states that the work is not in his own handwriting, but in
that of his secretary, to whom he dictated during eleven years four
hours each day, two in the morning, and two in the afternoon--and that
he commenced his formidable task in the year 1664, when he was living in
retirement in his Commanderie of St. Eugene in Limousin; and, despite
his advanced age, "in possession of all his faculties as perfectly as
when he had only reached his twenty-fifth year."

It is but recently that the present proprietor of the Memoirs, rightly
judging that the time has elapsed in which the disclosures of the
chronicler in question could conduce to the injury of any one connected
with him, has consented to permit of their perusal; and that only by a
few literary friends, all of whom have been astonished by their
extraordinary variety of information, marvellous detail, and intimate
acquaintance, not only with the principal events of the seventeenth
century (the writer having lived to the patriarchal age of ninety-six
years), but also with the leading actors in each of them.

In conclusion, I may say that these volumes are, through the kindness of
MM. d'Inguimbert and de la Plane, enriched by numerous curious extracts
from these unpublished Memoirs, no part of which has previously
appeared in print.

LONDON, _May_ 1852.


[1] This curious manuscript is at present the property of the Comte
d'Inguimbert d'Avignon; who, having lost his father at an early age, is
not aware of the precise manner in which it fell into the possession of
his family. Thus much, however, is certain, that it has for a
considerable length of time been religiously preserved by his ancestors;
and that the Countess his mother (sister of the last Comte de Bruges,
aide-de-camp to Charles X), who died a few years ago at an advanced age,
had never ventured, in obedience to the injunction above mentioned, to
entrust it to any one.--J.P.






Marriages of Henri IV--Marguerite de Valois--Her character--Her marriage
with the King of Navarre--Massacre of Saint Bartholomew--Henri, Duc
d'Anjou, elected sovereign of Poland--Death of Charles IX--Accession of
Henri III--Conspiracy of the Duc d'Alencon--Revealed by
Marguerite--Henry of Navarre escapes from the French Court--Henry of
Navarre protests against his enforced oath--Marguerite is imprisoned by
her brother--The Duc d'Alencon returns to his allegiance--Marguerite
joins her husband in Bearn--Domestic discord--Marriage-portion of
Marguerite--Court of Navarre--Dupin insults the Queen of
Navarre--Catherine de Medicis induces Marguerite to return to
France--The Duc d'Alencon again revolts--Marguerite arrests a royal
courier--She is banished with ignominy from the French Court--She is
deprived of her attendants--Henry of Navarre refuses to receive her in
the palace--Marguerite returns to Agen--Her licentiousness--Agen is
stormed and taken by the Marechal de Matignon--Marguerite escapes to the
fortress of Carlat--The inhabitants of the town resolve to deliver her
up to the French King--She is made prisoner by the Marquis de Canillac,
and conveyed to Usson--She seduces the governor of the fortress--Death
of the Duc d'Alencon--Poverty of Marguerite--Accession of Henri IV--He
embraces the Catholic faith--His dissipated habits--The Duc de Bouillon
heads the Huguenot party--Henri IV proceeds to Brittany, and threatens
M. de Bouillon--Festivities at Rennes--Henri IV becomes melancholy--He
resolves to divorce Marguerite, and take a second wife--European
princesses--Henry desires to marry la belle Gabrielle--Sully
expostulates--Sully proposes a divorce to Marguerite--The Duchesse de
Beaufort intrigues to prevent the marriage of the King with Marie de
Medicis--She bribes Sillery--Diplomacy of Sillery--Gabrielle aspires to
the throne of France--Her death--Marguerite consents to a divorce--The
Pope declares the nullity of her marriage--Grief of the King at the
death of Gabrielle--Royal pleasures--A new intrigue--Mademoiselle
d'Entragues--Her tact--Her character--A love-messenger--Value of a royal
favourite--Costly indulgences--A practical rebuke--Diplomacy of
Mademoiselle d'Entragues--The written promise--Mademoiselle d'Entragues
is created Marquise de Verneuil.



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



Court festivities--The Queen's ballet--A gallant prelate--A poetical
almoner--Insolence of the royal favourite--Unhappiness of the
Queen--Weakness of Henry--Intrigue of Madame de Villars--The King
quarrels with the favourite--They are reconciled--Madame de Villars is
exiled, and the Prince de Joinville sent to join the army in
Hungary--Mortification of the Queen--Her want of judgment--New
dissension in the royal menage--Sully endeavours to restore
peace--Mademoiselle de Sourdis--The Court removes to Blois--Royal
rupture--A bewildered minister--Marie and her foster-sister--Conspiracy
of the Ducs de Bouillon and de Biron--Parallel between the two
nobles--The Comte d'Auvergne--Ingratitude of Biron--He is betrayed--His
arrogance--He is summoned to the capital to justify himself--He refuses
to obey the royal summons--Henry sends a messenger to command his
presence at Court--Precautionary measures of Sully--The President
Jeannin prevails over the obstinacy of Biron--Double treachery of La
Fin--The King endeavours to induce Biron to confess his crime--Arrest of
the Duc de Biron and the Comte d'Auvergne--The royal soiree--A timely
caution--Biron is made prisoner by Vitry, and the Comte d'Auvergne by
Praslin--They are conveyed separately to the Bastille--Exultation of the
citizens--Firmness of the King--Violence of Biron--Tardy
repentance--Trial of Biron--A scene in the Bastille--Condemnation of the
Duke--He is beheaded--The subordinate conspirators are pardoned--The Duc
de Bouillon retires to Turenne--Refuses to appear at Court--Execution of
the Baron de Fontenelles--A salutary lesson--The Comte d'Auvergne is
restored to liberty--Revolt of the Prince de Joinville--He is treated
with contempt by the King--He is imprisoned by the Duc de Guise--Removal
of the Court to Fontainbleau--Legitimation of the son of Madame de
Verneuil--Unhappiness of the Queen--She is consoled by Sully--Birth of
the Princesse Elisabeth de France--Disappointment of the
Queen--Soeur Ange.



Court festivities--Madame de Verneuil is lodged in the palace--She gives
birth to a daughter--Royal quarrels--Mademoiselle de Guise--Italian
actors--Revolt at Metz--Henry proceeds thither and suppresses the
rebellion--Discontent of the Duc d'Epernon--The Duchesse de Bar and the
Duc de Lorraine arrive in France--Illness of Queen Elizabeth of
England--Her death--Indisposition of the French King--Sully at
Fontainebleau--Confidence of Henri IV in his wife--His recovery--Renewed
passion of Henry for Madame de Verneuil--Anger of the Queen--Quarrel of
the Comte de Soissons and the Duc de Sully--The edict--Treachery of
Madame de Verneuil--Insolence of the Comte de Soissons--A royal
rebuke--Alarm of Madame de Verneuil--Hopes of the Queen--Jealousy of the
Marquise--The dinner at Rosny--The King pacifies the province of Lower
Normandy--The Comte de Soissons prepares to leave the kingdom--Is
dissuaded by the King--Official apology of Sully--Reception of
Alexandre-Monsieur into the Order of the Knights of Malta--Death of the
Duchesse de Bar--Grief of the King--The Papal Nuncio--Treachery near the
throne--A revelation--The Duc de Villeroy--A stormy audience--Escape of
L'Hote--His pursuit--His death--Ignominious treatment of his
body--Madame de Verneuil asserts her claim to the hand of the King--The
Comte d'Auvergne retires from the Court--Madame de Verneuil requests
permission to quit France--Reply of the King--Indignation of Marie--The
King resolves to obtain the written promise of marriage--Insolence
of the favourite--Weakness of Henry--He asks the advice of
Sully--Parallel between a wife and a mistress--A lame apology--The two
Henrys--Reconciliation between the King and the favourite--Remonstrances
of Sully--A delicate dilemma--Extravagance of the Queen--The "Pot de
Vin"--The royal letter--Evil influences--Henry endeavours to effect a
reconciliation with the Queen--Difficult diplomacy--A temporary
calm--Renewed differences--A minister at fault--Mademoiselle de la
Bourdaisiere--Mademoiselle de Bueil--Jealousy of Madame de
Verneuil--Conspiracy of the Comte d'Auvergne--Intemperance of the
Queen--Timely interference--Confidence accorded by the Queen to Sully--A
dangerous suggestion--Sully reconciles the royal couple--Madame de
Verneuil is exiled from the Court--She joins the conspiracy of her
brother--The forged contract--Apology of the Comte d'Entragues--Promises
of Philip of Spain to the conspirators--Duplicity of the Comte
d'Auvergne--He is pardoned by the King--His treachery suspected by M. de
Lomenie--D'Auvergne escapes to his government--Is made prisoner and
conveyed to the Bastille--His self-confidence--A devoted wife--The
requirements of a prisoner--Hidden documents--The treaty with Spain--The
Comtesse d'Entragues--Haughty demeanour of Madame de Verneuil--The
mistress and the minister--Mortification of Sully--Marriage of
Mademoiselle de Bueil--Henry embellishes the city of Paris and
undertakes other great national works.



Trial of the conspirators--Pusillanimity of the Comte
d'Auvergne--Arrogant attitude assumed by Madame de Verneuil--She refuses
to offer any defence--Defence of the Comte d'Entragues--The two nobles
are condemned to death--Madame de Verneuil is sentenced to imprisonment
for life in a convent--A mother's intercession--The King commutes the
sentence of death passed on the two nobles to exile from the Court and
imprisonment for life--Expostulations of the Privy Council--Madame de
Verneuil is permitted to retire to her estate--Disappointment of the
Queen--Marriage of the Duc de Rohan--Singular ceremony--A tilt at the
Louvre--Bassompierre is dangerously wounded--His convalescence--Death of
Clement VIII--Election of Leo XI--His sudden death--Election of Paul
V--The Comte d'Entragues is authorized to return to Marcoussis--Madame
de Verneuil is pardoned and recalled--Marriage of the Prince de
Conti--Mademoiselle de Guise--Marriage of the Prince of Orange--The
ex-Queen Marguerite--She arrives in Paris--Gratitude of the King--Her
reception--Murder at the Hotel de Sens--Execution of the
criminal--Marguerite removes to the Faubourg St. Germain--The King
condoles with her on the loss of her favourite--Her dissolute
career--Her able policy--Death of M. de la Riviere--Execution of M. de
Merargues--Attempt to assassinate Henri IV--Magnanimity of the
monarch--Henry seeks to initiate the Queen into the mysteries of
government--_Madame la Regente_--A timely warning.



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



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



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


_A brief memoir, with a portrait on steel, of Miss Pardoe will be found
prefixed to "The Court and Reign of Francis the First_."




Duc de Guise (Henri de Lorraine, _Le Balafre_).
Duchesse de Guise.
Prince de Conde (Henri I. de Bourbon).
Ambroise Pare.
Mlle. de Torigni.
Duchesse de Bar.
Duc de Joyeuse.
Le Pere Ange.
Marechal de Matignon.
Marquis de Canillac.
Comtesse de Guiche.
Gabrielle d'Estrees (Duchesse de Beaufort).
Duc de Bouillon.
Comte d'Aubigny.
Isabella, Infanta of Spain.
Princess Arabella Stuart.
Isabeau de Baviere.
Prince Maurice of Orange.
Marie de Medicis.
Mlle. de Guise.
Mlle. de Mayenne.
Mlle. d'Aumale.
Mlle. de Longueville.
Mlle. de Rohan.
Mlle. de Luxembourg.
Mlle. de Guemenee.
Cardinal de Marquemont.
Cardinal d'Ossat.
Cardinal Duperron.
Duc de Piney-Luxembourg.
M. de Sillery.
Duc de Bellegarde.
Duc de Lude.
M. de Thermes.
Marquis de Castelnau.
Marquis de Montglat.
M. de Frontenac.
Baron de Bassompierre.
Marquise de Verneuil.
Queen Louise.
Comte d'Auvergne.
M. de Villeroy.
Duke of Savoy.
Duc de Biron.
Sebastian Zamet.
M. du Terrail.
Marquis de Crequy.
Duc de Montmorency (Henri I.).
Duc de Nemours.
Duc de Ventadour.
M. du Vair.
Le Pere Suares.
M. Albert de Bellievre.
M. de Roquelaure.
Cardinal de Joyeuse.
Cardinal de Gondy.
Cardinal de Sourdis.
Marquis de Gondy.
Duchesse de Nemours.
Leonora Galigai (Marquise d'Ancre).
Madame de Richelieu.
Concini (Marechal d'Ancre).
Charles I., Cardinal de Bourbon.
Charles II, Cardinal de Bourbon.
M. de la Riviere.
Duc de Verneuil.
Duc de Vendome.
M. de Berthault.
Prince de Joinville.
Mademoiselle de Sourdis.
Caterina Selvaggio.
Duc de la Tremouille.
Duc d'Epernon.
Conde de Fuentes.
Baron de Luz.
M. de la Fin.
M. Descures.
M. Jeannin.
Comte de Soissons (Charles de Bourbon-Conti).
Marquis de Vitry.
Marquis de Praslin.
Marechal de Montigny.
M. de Montbarot.
Baron de Fontenelles.
Duc de Mayenne.
Duc de Guise (Charles de Lorraine).
Madame Elisabeth de France.
Mademoiselle de Bourbon.
M. de Sobole.
M. d'Arquien.
Duc de Deux-Ponts.
Comte de Beaumont.
M. de Bellefonds.
Comte de St. Pol.
Bishop of Nevers.
M. de Barrault.
Comte de Rochepot.
Comte de Brienne.
M. d'Argouges.
M. de Maisse.
M. de Gevres.
Mademoiselle de Bueil.
M. de la Houssaye.
M. Murat.
M. de Nerestan.
Comtesse d'Auvergne.
M. Defunctis.
Marquis de Spinola.
Comtesse d'Entragues.
M. de Chevillard.
M. de la Varenne.
M. du Plessis-Mornay.
M. Achille de Harlay.
M. Servin.
Mademoiselle d'Entragues.
Duc de Rohan.
Comte de Laval.
Baron de Thermes.
M. de Saint-Luc.
Comte de Sault.
Clement VIII.
Paul V.
Comte de Giury.
Princess of Orange.
Bishop of Bourges.
M. de Merargues.
Madame de Drou.
Mademoiselle de Piolant.
Madame Christine de France.
Comte de Sommerive.
Duc de Nevers.
Duc de Montpensier.
Baron de la Chataigneraie.
Duchess of Mantua.
Leo XI.
Baron de la Chatre.
Comte de Liancourt.
Marechal de Fervaques.
Marquis de Bois-Dauphin.
Marquis de Lavardin.
Duc de Montbazon.
Duchesse d'Angouleme.
Prince de Vaudemont.
Marquis de Rosny.
Duchesse de Montpensier.
Duchesse de Nevers.
Duc de Soubise.
Comte de Moret.
M. de Balagny.
Mademoiselle des Essarts.
Comte de Beaumont-Harlay.
Cardinal de Guise.
Cardinal de Lorraine.
Mademoiselle de Montpensier.
Gaston Jean Baptiste de France.
Mademoiselle de Mercoeur.
Don Pedro de Toledo.
Mademoiselle de Montmorency.
Seigneur de Montespan.
Comte d'Elbene.
Marquis de Coeuvres.
Marquis de Gevres.
Duc de la Force.
Archduke of Austria.
M. de Chateauneuf.
Madame Henriette de France.
M. de Preau.




2. HENRI DE LORRAINE, DUC DE GUISE. Engraved by Hopwood.

3. THE EVE OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW. Engraved by Follet from a Painting by


5. MARECHAL DE BIRON. Engraved by Colin from the Original by Gallait.

6. DUC DE SULLY. Engraved by Hopwood.









Marriages of Henri IV--Marguerite de Valois--Her character--Her marriage
with the King of Navarre--Massacre of Saint Bartholomew--Henri, Duc
d'Anjou, elected sovereign of Poland--Death of Charles IX--Accession of
Henri III--Conspiracy of the Duc d'Alencon--Revealed by
Marguerite--Henry of Navarre escapes from the French Court--Henry of
Navarre protests against his enforced oath--Marguerite is imprisoned by
her brother--The Duc d'Alencon returns to his allegiance--Marguerite
joins her husband at Bearn--Domestic discord--Marriage-portion of
Marguerite--Court of Navarre--Dupin insults the Queen of
Navarre--Catherine de Medicis induces Marguerite to return to
France--The Duc d'Alencon again revolts--Marguerite arrests a royal
courier--She is banished with ignominy from the French Court--She is
deprived of her attendants--Henry of Navarre refuses to receive her in
the palace--Marguerite returns to Agen--Her licentiousness--Agen is
stormed and taken by the Marshal de Matignon--Marguerite escapes to the
fortress of Carlat--The inhabitants of the town resolve to deliver her
up to the French King--She is made prisoner by the Marquis de Canillac,
and conveyed to Usson--She seduces the governor of the fortress--Death
of the Duc d'Alencon--Poverty of Marguerite--Accession of Henri IV--He
embraces the Catholic faith--His dissipated habits--The Duc de Bouillon
heads the Huguenot party--Henri IV proceeds to Brittany, and threatens
M. de Bouillon--Festivities at Rennes--Henri IV becomes melancholy--He
resolves to divorce Marguerite, and take a second wife--European
princesses--Henry desires to marry la belle Gabrielle--Sully
expostulates--Sully proposes a divorce to Marguerite--The Duchesse de
Beaufort intrigues to prevent the marriage of the King with Marie de
Medicis--She bribes Sillery--Diplomacy of Sillery--Gabrielle aspires to
the throne of France--Her death--Marguerite consents to a divorce--The
Pope declares the nullity of her marriage--Grief of the King at the
death of Gabrielle--Royal pleasures--A new intrigue--Mademoiselle
d'Entragues--Her tact--Her character--A love-messenger--Value of a royal
favourite--Costly indulgences--A practical rebuke--Diplomacy of
Mademoiselle d'Entragues--The written promise--Mademoiselle d'Entragues
is created Marquise de Verneuil.

However celebrated he was destined to become as a sovereign, Henri IV of
France was nevertheless fated to be singularly unfortunate as a husband.
Immediately after the death of his mother, the high-hearted Jeanne
d'Albret, whom he succeeded on the throne of Navarre, political
considerations induced him to give his hand to Marguerite, the daughter
of Henri II and Catherine de Medicis, a Princess whose surpassing beauty
and rare accomplishments were the theme and marvel of all the European
courts, and whose alliance was an object of ambition to many of the
sovereign princes of Christendom.

Marguerite de Valois was born on the 14th of May 1552, and became the
wife of Henry of Navarre on the 18th of August 1572, when she was in the
full bloom of youth and loveliness; nor can there be any doubt that she
was one of the most extraordinary women of her time; for while her grace
and wit dazzled the less observant by their brilliancy, the depth of her
erudition, her love of literature and the arts, and the solidity of her
judgment, no less astonished those who were capable of appreciating the
more valuable gifts which had been lavished upon her by nature. A dark
shadow rested, however, upon the surface of this glorious picture.
Marguerite possessed no moral self-government; her passions were at once
the bane and the reproach of her existence; and while yet a mere girl
her levity had already afforded ample subject for the comments of the

[Illustration: HENRI DE LORRAINE. Paris Richard Bentley and Son 1890]

Fortunately, in the rapid sketch which we are compelled to give of her
career, it is unnecessary that we should do more than glance at the
licentiousness of her private conduct; our business is simply to trace
such an outline of her varying fortunes as may suffice to render
intelligible the position of Henri IV at the period of his
second marriage.

After the death of Francis II, when internal commotion had succeeded to
the feigned and hollow reconciliation which had taken place between
Charles IX and Henri de Lorraine, Duc de Guise,[2] Marguerite and her
younger brother, the Duc d'Alencon, were removed to the castle of
Amboise for greater security; and she remained in that palace-fortress
from her tenth year until 1564, when she returned to Court, and
thenceforward became one of the brightest ornaments of the royal circle.
Henri de Guise was not long ere he declared himself her ardent admirer,
and the manner in which the Princess received and encouraged his
attentions left no doubt that the affection was reciprocal. So
convinced, indeed, were those about her person of the fact, that M. du
Gast, the favourite of the King her brother, earnestly entreated His
Majesty no longer to confide to the Princess, as he had hitherto done,
all the secrets of the state, as they could not, he averred, fail, under
existing circumstances, to be communicated to M. de Guise; and Charles
IX so fully appreciated the value of this advice, that he hastened to
urge the same caution upon the Queen-mother. This sudden distrust and
coldness on the part of her royal relatives was peculiarly irritating to
Marguerite; nor was her mortification lessened by the fact that the Duc
de Guise, first alarmed, and ultimately disgusted, by her unblushing
irregularities, withdrew his pretensions to her hand; and, sacrificing
his ambition to a sense of self-respect, selected as his wife Catherine
de Cleves, Princesse de Portien.[3]

At this period Marguerite de Valois began to divide her existence
between the most exaggerated devotional observances and the most sensual
and degrading pleasures. Humbly kneeling before the altar, she would
assist at several masses during the day; but at twilight she cast off
every restraint, and careless of what was due, alike to her sex and to
her rank, she plunged into the grossest dissipation; and after having
played the guest at a riotous banquet, she might be seen sharing in the
disgraceful orgies of a masquerade.[4] A short time after the marriage
of the Duc de Guise, the hand of the Princess was demanded by Don
Sebastian, King of Portugal; but the Queen-mother, who witnessed with
alarm the increasing power of the Protestant party, and the utter
impossibility of inspiring confidence in their leaders save by some bold
and subtle stroke of policy, resolved to profit by the presence of the
Huguenot King of Navarre, in order to overcome the distrust which not
even the edict of 1570 had sufficed to remove; and to renew the project
which had been already mooted during the lifetime of Jeanne d'Albret, of
giving Marguerite in marriage to the young Prince, her son.

The consciousness that she was sacrificing her daughter by thus
bestowing her hand upon the sovereign of a petty kingdom might perhaps
have deterred Catherine, had she not already decided upon the means by
which the bonds of so unequal an alliance might be rent assunder; and it
is even possible that the hatred which she bore to the reformed faith
would in itself have sufficed to render such an union impossible, had
not the crafty and compunctionless spirit by which she was animated
inspired her with a method which would more than expiate the temporary
sin. It is at all events certain that having summoned Henry of Navarre
to her presence, she unhesitatingly, and with many professions of regard
for himself, informed him of the overtures of the Portuguese monarch,
assuring him at the same time, that although the King of Spain was
opposed to the alliance from motives of personal interest, it was one
which would prove highly gratifying to Gregory XIII; but adding that
both Charles IX and herself were so anxious to perform the promise which
they had made to his mother, and to prove their good faith to his own
person, that they were willing to refuse the crown of Portugal and to
accept that of Navarre for the Princess.

Henry of Bearn hesitated. He was aware that the chiefs of the Protestant
party, especially the Admiral de Coligny, whom he regarded as a father,
were desirous that he should become the husband of Elizabeth of England.
Past experience had rendered them suspicious of the French, while an
alliance with the English promised them a strong and abiding protection.
Nor was Henry himself more disposed to espouse Marguerite de Valois, as
her early reputation for gallantry offended his sense of self-respect,
while a strong attachment elsewhere rendered him insensible to her
personal attractions. As a matter of ambition, the alliance was beyond
his hopes, and brought him one step nearer to that throne which, by some
extraordinary prescience, both he and his friends anticipated that he
was destined one day to ascend;[5] but he could not forget that there
were dark suspicions attached to the strange and sudden death of a
mother to whom he had been devoted; and he felt doubly repugnant to
receive a wife from the very hands which were secretly accused of having
abridged his passage to the sovereignty of Navarre. Like Marguerite
herself, moreover, he was not heart-whole; and thus he clung to the
freedom of an unmarried life, and would fain have declined the honour
which was pressed upon him; but the wily Catherine, who instantly
perceived his embarrassment, bade him carefully consider the position in
which he stood, and the fearful responsibility which attached to his
decision. Charles IX, in bestowing upon him the hand of his sister, gave
to the Protestants the most decided and unequivocal proof of his
sincerity. It was evident, she said, that despite the edict which
assured protection to the Huguenot party, they still misdoubted the
good-faith of the monarch; but when he had also overlooked, or rather
disregarded, the difference of faith so thoroughly as to give a Princess
of France in marriage to one of their princes, they would no longer have
a pretext for discontent, and the immediate pacification of the kingdom
must be the necessary consequence of such a concession. The ultimate
issue of so unequal a conflict could not, as she asserted, be for one
moment doubtful; but the struggle might be a bloody one, and he would do
well to remember that the blood thus spilt would be upon his own head.

Henry then sought, as his mother had previously done, to create a
difficulty by alleging that the difference of faith between himself and
the Princess must tend to affect the validity of their marriage; but the
wily Italian met this objection by reminding him that Charles IX had
publicly declared that "rather than that the alliance should not take
place, he would permit his sister to dispense with all the rites and
ceremonies of both religions."

It is well known that the motive of the French King in thus urging, or
rather insisting upon, a marriage greatly beneath the pretensions of the
Princess, was simply to attract to Court all the Huguenot leaders, who,
placing little faith in the conciliatory edict, had resolutely abstained
from appearing in the capital; but Catherine alluded so slightly to this
fact that it awoke no misgivings in the mind of the young monarch.

Thus adjured, Henry of Navarre yielded; nor did the Princess on her part
offer any violent opposition to the marriage. She objected, it is true,
her religious scruples, and her attachment to her own creed; but her
arguments were soon overruled, the hand of the King of Portugal was
courteously declined, Philip of Spain was assured that his
representations had decided the French Court, and immediate preparations
were made for the unhappy union, whose date was to be written in blood.
The double ceremony, exacted by the difference of faith in the
contracting parties, was performed, as we have said, on the 18th of
August 1572, the public betrothal having taken place on the preceding
day at the Louvre; and it was accompanied by all the splendour of which
it was susceptible. The marriage-service was performed by the Cardinal
de Bourbon, on a platform erected in front of the metropolitan church of
Notre-Dame; whence, at its conclusion, the bridal train descended by a
temporary gallery to the interior of the Cathedral, and proceeded to the
altar, where Henry, relinquishing the hand of his new-made wife, left
her to assist at the customary mass, and meanwhile paced to and fro
along the cloisters in conversation with the venerable Gaspard de
Coligny and others of his confidential friends, the whole of whom were
sanguine in their anticipations of a bright and happy future.

At the conclusion of the mass the King of Navarre rejoined his bride,
and taking her hand, conducted her to the episcopal palace, where,
according to an ancient custom, the marriage-banquet awaited them.[6]
The square of the Parvis Notre-Dame was crowded with eager spectators,
and the heart of the Queen-mother beat high with exultation as she
glanced at the retinue of the bridegroom, and recognised in his suite
all the Huguenot leaders who had hitherto refused to pass the gates of
the capital.

Save her own, however, all eyes were rivetted upon Marguerite; and many
were the devout Catholics who murmured beneath their breath at the
policy which had determined the monarch to bestow a Princess of such
beauty and genius upon a heretic. In truth, nothing could be more regal
or more dazzling than the appearance of the youthful bride, who wore,
as Queen of Navarre, a richly-jewelled crown, beneath which her long and
luxuriant dark hair fell in waving masses over an ermine cape (or
_couet_) clasped from the throat to the waist with large diamonds; while
her voluminous train of violet-coloured velvet, three ells in length,
was borne by four princesses.[7] And thus in royal state she moved
along, surrounded and followed by all the nobility and chivalry of
France, amid the acclamations of an admiring and excited people, having
just pledged herself to one whose feelings were as little interested in
the compact as her own.

The bridal festivities lasted throughout three entire days; and never
had such an excess of luxury and magnificence been displayed at the
French Court. Towards the Protestants, the bearing both of Charles IX
and his mother was so courteous, frank, and conciliating, that the most
distrustful gradually threw off their misgivings, and vied with the
Catholic nobles both in gallantry and splendour; and meanwhile
Catherine, the King, the Duc d'Anjou, and the Guises were busied in
organizing the frightful tragedy of St. Bartholomew!

The young Queen of Navarre had scrupulously been left in ignorance of a
plot which involved the life of her bridegroom as well as those of his
co-religionists; nor was she aware of the catastrophe which had been
organised until Paris was already one vast shambles. Startled from her
sleep at the dead of night, and hurriedly informed of the nature of the
frightful cries that had broken her rest, she at once sprang from her
bed, and throwing on a mantle, forced her way to the closet of her royal
brother, where, sinking on her knees, she earnestly implored the lives
of Henry's Protestant attendants; but for a time Charles was obdurate;
nor was it until after he had reluctantly yielded to her prayers that
she recognised, with an involuntary cry of joy, the figure of her
husband, who stood in the deep bay of a window with his cousin, M.
de Conde.[8]

By one of those caprices to which he was subject, the King had refused
to sacrifice either of these Princes; and he had accordingly summoned
them to his presence, where he had offered them the alternative of an
instant abjuration of their heresy.

Shrieks and groans already resounded on all sides; the groans of strong
men, struck down unarmed and defenceless, and the shrieks of women
struggling with their murderers; while through all, and above all,
boomed out the deep-toned bells of the metropolitan churches--one long
burial-peal; and amid this ghastly diapason it was the pleasure of the
tiger-hearted Charles to accept the reluctant and informal recantation
of his two horror-stricken victims; after which he compelled them
without remorse to the agony of seeing their friends and followers
butchered before their eyes.

Enraged by what they denounced as the weak and impolitic clemency of the
King, in having thus shielded two of the most powerful leaders of the
adverse faction, Catherine de Medicis and the Guises, having first
wreaked their vengeance upon the corpse of the brave and veteran de
Coligny, which they induced the King to dishonour himself by subjecting
to the most ignominious treatment, next endeavoured to alienate
Marguerite from her husband, and to induce her to solicit a divorce. It
had formed no part of the Queen-mother's intention that the Princess
should remain fettered by the bonds which she had herself wreathed about
her; nor could she brook that after having accomplished a _coup-de-main_
which had excited the indignation of half of Europe, Henry of Navarre
should be indebted for an impunity which counteracted all her views to
the alliance which he had formed with her own family. Marguerite,
however, resolutely refused to lend herself to this new treachery,
declaring that as her husband had abjured his heresy, she had no plea to
advance in justification of so flagrant an act of perfidy; nor could the
expostulations of her mother produce any change in her resolve.

[Illustration: THE EVE OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEU Paris: Richard Bentley and
Son 1890.]

It is probable that the perfect freedom of action for which she was
indebted to the indifference of her young bridegroom had great influence
in prompting this reply, and that the crown which had so recently been
placed upon her brow had at the same time flattered her ambition;
while the frightful carnage of which she had just been a witness might
well cause her to shrink from the probable repetition of so hideous a
catastrophe. Be her motives what they might, however, neither threats
nor entreaties could shake the resolution of the Princess; and she was
supported in her opposition by her favourite brother, the Duc d'Alencon,
who had secretly attached himself to the cause of the Protestant

This was another source of uneasiness to the Queen-mother, who
apprehended, from the pertinacity with which Marguerite clung to her
husband, that she would exert all her influence to effect an
understanding between the two brothers-in-law which could not fail to
prove fatal to the interests of the Duc d'Anjou, who, in the event of
the decease of Charles IX, was the rightful heir to the throne. Nor was
that decease a mere matter of idle speculation, for the health of the
King, always feeble and uncertain, had failed more than ever since the
fatal night of the 24th of August; and he had even confessed to Ambroise
Pare,[9] his body-surgeon, that his dreams were haunted by the spectres
of his victims, and that he consequently shrank from the sleep which was
so essential to his existence. The Duc d'Anjou meanwhile was absent at
the siege of Rochelle, while his brother, d'Alencon, was about the
person of the dying monarch, and had made himself eminently popular
among the citizens of Paris. The crisis was an alarming one; but it was
still destined to appear even more perilous, for, to the consternation
of Catherine, intelligence at this period reached the Court that the
Polish nation had elected the Duc d'Anjou as their King, and that their
ambassadors were about to visit France in order to tender him the crown.
In vain did she represent to Charles the impolicy of suffering a warlike
prince like Henri d'Anjou to abandon his country for a foreign throne,
and urge him to replace the elder by the younger brother, alleging that
so long as the Polish people could see a prince of the blood-royal of
France at the head of their nation, they would care little whether he
were called Henry or Francis; the King refused to countenance such a
substitution. He had long been jealous of the military renown of the Duc
d'Anjou; while he was also perfectly aware of the anxiety with which
both the Queen-mother and the Prince himself looked forward to his own
death, in order that Henry might succeed him; and he consequently issued
a command that the sovereign-elect should immediately repair to Paris to
receive at the hands of the foreign delegates the crown which they were
about to offer to him.

The summons was obeyed. The ambassadors, who duly arrived, were
magnificently received; Henri d'Anjou was declared King of Poland; and,
finally, he found himself compelled to depart for his own kingdom.
Unfortunately for Marguerite, she had not sufficient self-control to
conceal the joy with which she saw the immediate succession to the
French throne thus transferred to her favourite brother; and her evident
delight so exasperated the Queen-mother, that she communicated to
Charles the suspicions which she herself entertained of the treachery of
the Princess; but the King, worn down by both physical and mental
suffering, treated her warnings with indifference, and she was
consequently compelled to await with patience the progress of events.

The death of the French monarch, which shortly afterwards took place,
and the accession of Henri d'Anjou, whom a timely warning had enabled to
abandon the crown of Poland for that of France, for a time diverted the
attention of Catherine from the suspected machinations of her daughter,
when, as if to convince her of her injustice, she suddenly received
secret intelligence from the young Queen of Navarre, that the Duc
d'Alencon had entered into a new league with the Bourbon Princes. It is
difficult to account for the motive which led Marguerite to make this
revelation, when her extraordinary affection for her brother, and the
anxiety which she had universally exhibited for the safety of her
husband, are remembered; thus much, however, is certain, that she did
not betray the conspiracy (which had been revealed to her by a Lutheran
gentleman whom she had saved during the massacre of St. Bartholomew)
until she had exacted a pledge that the lives of all who were involved
in it should be spared. In her anxiety to secure the secret, the
Queen-mother, on her side, gave a solemn promise to that effect, and she
redeemed her word; while from the immediate precautions which she caused
to be taken the plot was necessarily annihilated.

The Princess had, however, by the knowledge which she thus displayed of
the movements of the Huguenot party, only increased the suspicions both
of the Queen-mother and her son; and the Court of France became ere long
so distasteful to Henry of Navarre, from the constant affronts to which
he was subjected, and the undisguised _surveillance_ which fettered all
his movements, that he resolved to effect his escape from Paris, an
example in which he was imitated by the Duc d'Alencon and the Prince de
Conde, the former of whom retired to Champagne, and the latter to one of
his estates, and with both of whom he shortly afterwards entered into a
formidable league.

Henri III, exasperated by the departure of the three Princes, declared
his determination to revenge the affront upon Marguerite, who had not
been enabled to accompany her husband; but the representations of the
Queen-mother induced him to forego this ungenerous project, and he was
driven to satiate his thirst for vengeance upon her favourite
attendant, Mademoiselle de Torigni,[10] of whose services he had already
deprived her, on the pretext that so young a Princess should not be
permitted to retain about her person such persons as were likely to
exert an undue influence over her mind, and to possess themselves of her
secrets. In the first paroxysm of his rage, he even sentenced this lady
to be drowned; nor is it doubtful that this iniquitous and unfounded
sentence would have been really carried into effect, had not the
unfortunate woman succeeded in making her escape through the agency of
two individuals who were about to rejoin the Duc d'Alencon, and who
conducted her safely to Champagne.[11]

One of the first acts of Henry of Navarre on reaching his own dominions
had been to protest against the enforced abjuration to which he was
compelled on the fatal night of St. Bartholomew, and to evince his
sincerity by resuming the practices of the reformed faith, a recantation
which so exasperated the French King that he made Marguerite a close
prisoner in her own apartments, under the pretext that she was leagued
with the enemies of the state against the church and throne of her
ancestors. Nor would he listen to her entreaties that she might be
permitted to follow her husband, declaring that "she should not live
with a heretic"; and thus her days passed on in a gloomy and cheerless
monotony, ill suited to her excitable temperament and splendid tastes.
Meanwhile, the Duc d'Alencon, weary of his voluntary exile, and hopeless
of any successful result to the disaffection in which he had so long
indulged, became anxious to effect a reconciliation with the King; and
for this purpose he addressed himself to Marguerite, to whom he
explained the conditions upon which he was willing to return to his
allegiance, giving her full power to treat in his name. Henri III, who,
on his side, was no less desirous to detach his brother from the
Protestant cause, acceded to all his demands, among which was the
immediate liberation of the Princess; and thus she at length found
herself enabled to quit her regal prison and to rejoin her royal
husband at Bearn.

During the space of five years the ill-assorted couple maintained at
least a semblance of harmony, for each apparently regarded very
philosophically those delicate questions which occasionally conduce to
considerable discord in married life. The personal habits of Henry,
combined with his sense of gratitude to his wife for her refusal to
abandon him to the virulence of her mother's hatred, induced him to
close his eyes to her moral delinquencies, while Marguerite, in her
turn, with equal complacency, affected a like ignorance as regarded the
pursuits of her husband; and thus the little Court of Pau, where they
had established their residence, rendered attractive by the frank
urbanity of the sovereign, and the grace and intellect of the young
Queen, became as brilliant and as dissipated as even the daughter of
Catherine de Medicis herself could desire. Poets sang her praise under
the name of Urania;[12] flatterers sought her smiles by likening her to
the goddesses of love and beauty, and she lived in a perpetual
atmosphere of pleasure and adulation.

The marriage-portion of Marguerite had consisted of the two provinces of
the Agenois and the Quercy, which had been ceded to her with all their
royal prerogatives; but even after this accession of revenue the
resources of Henry of Navarre did not exceed those of a private
gentleman, amounting, in fact, only to a hundred and forty thousand
livres, or about six thousand pounds yearly. The ancient kingdom of
Navarre, which had once extended from the frontier of France to the
banks of the Ebro, and of which Pampeluna had been the capital, shorn of
its dimensions by Ferdinand the Catholic at the commencement of the
sixteenth century, and incorporated with the Spanish monarchy, now
consisted only of a portion of Lower Navarre, and the principality of
Bearn, thus leaving to Henry little of sovereignty save the title. The
duchy of Albret in Gascony, which he inherited from his
great-grandfather, and that of Vendome, his appanage as a Prince of the
Blood-royal of France, consequently formed no inconsiderable portion of
his territory: while the title of Governor of Guienne, which he still
retained, was a merely nominal dignity whence he derived neither income
nor influence; and so unpopular was he in the province that the citizens
of Bordeaux refused to admit him within their gates.

Nevertheless, the young monarch who held his court alternately at Pau
and at Nerac, the capital of the duchy of Albret, expended annually upon
his household and establishment nearly twelve thousand pounds, and that
at a period when, according to the evidence of Sully, "the whole Court
could not have furnished forty thousand livres;" [13] yet so
inadequately were those about him remunerated, that Sully himself, in
his joint capacity of councillor of state and chamberlain, received only
two thousand annual livres, or ninety pounds sterling. This royal penury
did not, however, depress the spirits of the frank and free-hearted
King, who eagerly entered into every species of gaiety and amusement.
Jousts, masques, and ballets succeeded each other with a rapidity which
left no time for anxiety or _ennui_; and Marguerite has bequeathed to us
in her memoirs so graphic a picture of the royal circle in 1579-80, that
we cannot resist its transcription. "We passed the greater portion of
our time at Nerac," she says, "where the Court was so brilliant that we
had no reason to envy that of France. The sole subject of regret was
that the principal number of the nobles and gentlemen were Huguenots;
but the subject of religion was never mentioned; the King, my husband,
accompanied by his sister,[14] attending their own devotions, while I
and my suite heard mass in a chapel in the park. When the several
services were concluded, we again assembled in a garden ornamented with
avenues of laurels and cypresses upon the bank of the river; and in the
afternoon and evening a ballet was performed." [15]

It is much to be regretted that the royal biographer follows up this
pleasing picture by avowals of her own profligacy, and complacent
comments upon the indulgence and generosity with which she lent herself
to the vices of her husband.

The temporary calm was not, however, fated to endure. Marguerite, even
while she indulged in the most unblushing licentiousness, was, as we
have already stated, devoted to the observances of her religion; and on
her first arrival at Pau she had requested that a chapel might be
provided in which the services of her church could be performed. This
was a concession which Henry of Navarre was neither willing nor indeed
able to make, the inhabitants of the city being all rigid reformers who
had not yet forgiven the young monarch either his enforced renunciation
of their faith or his Catholic marriage; and accordingly the Queen had
been compelled to avail herself of a small oratory in the castle which
would not contain more than six or eight persons; while so anxious was
the King not to exasperate the good citizens, that no individual was
permitted to accompany her to the chapel save the immediate members of
her household, and the drawbridge was always raised until she had
returned to her own apartments.

Thus, the arrival of Marguerite in the country, which had raised the
hopes of the Catholic portion of the population, by no means tended to
improve their position; and for a time her co-religionists, disheartened
by so signal a disappointment, made no effort to resist the orders of
the King; but on the day of Pentecost, 1579, a few zealous devotees, who
had by some means introduced themselves secretly into the castle,
followed the Queen to her oratory, where they were arrested by Dupin the
royal secretary, very roughly treated in the presence of Marguerite
herself, and only released on the payment of a heavy fine.

Indignant at the disrespect which had been shown to her, the Princess at
once proceeded to the apartment of her husband, where she complained
with emphatic bitterness of the insolence of his favourite; and she had
scarcely begun to acquaint him with the details of the affair when Dupin
entered unannounced, and in the most intemperate manner commented on her
breach of good faith in having wilfully abused the forbearance of the
sovereign and his Protestant subjects.

It was not without some difficulty that Henry succeeded in arresting
this indecent flow of words, when, rebuking Dupin for his want of
discretion and self-control, he commanded him immediately to crave the
pardon of the Queen for his ill-advised interference and the want of
deference of which he had been guilty towards her royal person; but
Marguerite refused to listen to any apology, and haughtily and
resolutely demanded the instant dismissal of the delinquent. In vain did
Henry expostulate, declaring that he could not dispense with the
services of so old and devoted a servant; the Princess was inexorable,
and the over-zealous secretary received orders to leave the Court.
Marguerite, however, purchased this triumph dearly, as the King resented
with a bitterness unusual to him the exhibition of authority in which
she had indulged; and when she subsequently urged him to punish those
who had acted under the orders of the exiled secretary, he boldly and
positively refused to give her any further satisfaction, alleging that
her want of consideration towards himself left him at equal liberty to
disregard her own wishes.

Angry and irritated, Marguerite lost no time in acquainting her family
with the affront which she had experienced; and Catherine de Medicis,
who believed that she had now found a pretext sufficiently plausible to
separate the young Queen from her husband, skilfully envenomed the
already rankling wound, not only by awakening the religious scruples of
her daughter, but also by reminding her that she had been subjected to
insult from a petty follower of a petty court; and, finally, she urged
her to assert her dignity by an immediate return to France.

Marguerite, whom the King had not made a single effort to conciliate,
obeyed without reluctance; and, in the year 1582, she left Navarre, and
on her arrival in Paris took possession of her old apartments in the
Louvre. She was received with great cordiality by Henri III, who trusted
that her residence in France might induce her husband ere long to follow
her; but he soon discovered that not even the warmth of his welcome
could cause her to forget the past; and that, under his own royal roof,
she was secretly intriguing with the Duc d'Alencon, who was once more in
open revolt against him.

For a time, although thoroughly informed that such was the fact, his
emissaries were unable to produce any tangible proof of the validity of
their accusations; but at length, rendered bold by impunity, Marguerite
was so imprudent (for the purpose of forwarding some despatches to the
rebel Duke) as to cause the arrest of a royal courier, charged with an
autograph letter of two entire sheets from the King to his favourite the
Duc de Joyeuse,[16] who was then on a mission at Rome; when the
unfortunate messenger, who found himself suddenly attacked by four men
in masks, made so desperate an effort to save the packet with which he
had been entrusted, that the _sbirri_ of the Princess, who had
anticipated an easy triumph, became so much exasperated that they
stabbed him on the spot.

This occurrence no sooner reached the ears of Henri III, than he sent to
desire the presence of his sister, when, utterly regardless of the fact
that they were not alone, he so far forgot his own dignity as to
overwhelm her with the coarsest and most cutting reproaches; and not
satisfied with expatiating upon the treachery of which she had been
guilty towards himself, he passed in review the whole of her ill-spent
life, accusing her, among other enormities, of the birth of an
illegitimate son,[17] and terminated his invectives by commanding her
instantly "to quit Paris, and rid the Court of her presence." [18]

On the morrow Marguerite accordingly left the capital with even less
state than she had entered it, for she had neither suite nor equipage,
and was accompanied only by Madame de Duras and Mademoiselle de Bethune,
her two favourite attendants. She was not, however, suffered to depart
even thus without impediment, for she had only travelled a few leagues
when, between Saint-Cler and Palaiseau, her litter was stopped by a
captain of the royal guard, at the head of a troop of harquebusiers:
she was compelled to remove her mask; and her companions, after having
been subjected to great discourtesy, were finally conveyed as prisoners
to the Abbey of Ferrieres, near Montargis, where they underwent an
examination, at which the King himself presided,[19] and wherein facts
were elicited that were fatal to the character of their mistress. Their
replies were then reduced to writing; and Marguerite, who had been
detained for this express purpose, was compelled by her inexorable
brother to affix her signature to the disgraceful document; when, after
she had been subjected to this new indignity, the daughter of Catherine
de Medicis was at length permitted to pursue her journey; but she was
compelled to do so alone, as her two attendants were forbidden to bear
her company.

She had no sooner left Ferrieres than Henri III despatched one of the
valets of his wardrobe to St. Foix, where the King of Navarre was for
the moment sojourning, with an autograph letter, in which he informed
him that he had considered it expedient to dismiss from the service of
his royal sister both Madame de Duras and Mademoiselle de Bethune,
having discovered that they were leading the most dissolute and
scandalous lives, and were "_pernicious vermin_" who could not be
permitted to remain about the person of a Princess of her rank.

Thus ignominiously driven from the Court of France, Marguerite, who had
no resource save in the indulgence of her husband, travelled with the
greatest speed to Nerac, where he was then residing, in the hope that
she might be enabled by her representations to induce him to espouse her
cause against her brother; but although, in order to preserve
appearances, Henry received her courteously, and even listened with
exemplary patience to her impassioned relation of the indignities to
which she had been subjected, the coldness of his deportment, and the
stern tone in which he informed her that he would give the necessary
orders for a separate residence to be prepared for her accommodation, as
he could never again receive her under his own roof, or accord to her
the honour and consideration due to a wife, convinced her that she had
nothing more to hope from his forbearance.

Even while he thus resented his own wrongs, however, Henry of Navarre no
sooner comprehended that Marguerite had been personally exposed to
insults which had affected his honour as her consort, than he despatched
a messenger to the French King at Lyons, "to entreat him to explain the
cause of these affronts, and to advise him, _as a good master_, how he
had better act." [20] But this somewhat servile proceeding produced no
adequate result, as his envoy received only ambiguous answers, and all
he could accomplish was to extort a promise from Henri III that on his
return to Paris he would discuss the affair with the Queen-mother and
the Duc d'Alencon.

Unaware of the negotiation which was thus opened, Marguerite had, as we
have said, lost all confidence in her own influence over her husband;
and accordingly, without giving any intimation of her design, she left
Nerac and retired to Agen, one of her dower-cities, where she
established herself in the castle; but her unbridled depravity of
conduct, combined with the extortions of Madame de Duras, her friend and
_confidante_, by whom she had been rejoined, soon rendered her odious to
the inhabitants.

In vain did she declare that the bull of excommunication which Sixtus V
had recently fulminated against the King of Navarre had been the cause
of her retiring from his Court, her conscience not permitting her to
share the roof of a prince under the ban of the Church.[21] The Agenese,
although Catholics and leagued against her husband, evinced towards
herself a disaffection so threatening that her position was rapidly
becoming untenable, when the city was stormed and taken by the Marechal
de Matignon[22] in the name of Henri III.[23]

Convinced that the capture of her own person was the sole motive of
this unprovoked assault, the fugitive Queen had once more recourse to
flight; and her eagerness to escape the power of the French King was so
great that she left the city seated on a pillion behind a gentleman of
her suite named Lignerac, while Madame de Duras followed in like manner;
and thus she travelled four-and-twenty leagues in the short space of two
days, attended by such of the members of her little household as were
enabled to keep pace with her.

The fortress of Carlat in the mountains of Auvergne offered to her, as
she believed, a safe asylum; but although the Governor, who was the
brother of M. de Lignerac, received her with respect, and promised her
his protection, the enmity of Henri III pursued her even to this obscure
place of exile.

At this period even the high spirit of Marguerite de Valois was nearly
subdued, for she no longer knew in what direction to turn for safety.
She had become contemptible in the eyes of her husband, she was deserted
by her mother, hated by her brother, despised by her co-religionists
from the licentiousness of her life, and detested by the Protestants as
the cause, however innocently, of the fatal massacre of their friends
and leaders. The memory of the martyred Coligny was ever accompanied by
a curse on Marguerite; and thus she was an outcast from all creeds and
all parties. Still, however, confident in the good faith of the
Governor of Carlat, she assumed at least a semblance of tranquillity,
and trusted that she should be enabled to remain for a time unmolested;
but it was not long ere she ascertained that the inhabitants of the
town, like those of Agen, were hostile to her interests, and that they
had even resolved to deliver her up to the French King.

Under these circumstances, she had no alternative save to become once
more a fugitive; and having, with considerable difficulty, succeeded in
making her escape beyond the walls, she began to indulge a hope that she
should yet baffle the devices of her enemy; she was soon, however, fated
to be undeceived, for she had travelled only a few leagues when she was
overtaken and captured by the Marquis de Canillac,[24] who conveyed her
to the fortress of Usson.[25] As she passed the drawbridge, Marguerite
recognised at a glance that there was no hope of evasion from this new
and impregnable prison, save through the agency of her gaoler; and she
accordingly lost no time in exerting all her blandishments to captivate
his reason. Although she had now attained her thirty-fifth year, neither
time, anxiety, hardship, nor even the baneful indulgence of her
misguided passions, had yet robbed her of her extraordinary beauty; and
it is consequently scarcely surprising that ere long the gallant soldier
to whose custody she was confided, surrendered at discretion, and laid
at her feet, not only his heart, but also the keys of her prison-house.

"Poor man!" enthusiastically exclaims Brantome, her friend and
correspondent; "what did he expect to do? Did he think to retain as a
prisoner her who, by her eyes and her lovely countenance, could hold in
her chains and bonds all the rest of the world like galley-slaves?" [26]

Certain it is, that if the brave but susceptible marquis ever
contemplated such a result, he was destined to prove the fallacy of his
hopes; for so totally was he subjugated by the fascinations of the
captive Queen, that he even abandoned to her the command of the
fortress, which thenceforward acknowledged no authority save her own.

Marguerite had scarcely resided a year at Usson when the death of the
Duc d'Alencon deprived her of the last friend whom she possessed on
earth; and not even the security that she derived from the
impregnability of the fortress in which she had found an asylum could
preserve her from great and severe suffering. The castle, with its
triple ramparts, its wide moat, and its iron portcullis, might indeed
defy all human enemies, but it could not exclude famine; and during her
sojourn within its walls, which extended over a period of two-and-twenty
years, she was compelled to pawn her jewels, and to melt down her plate,
in order to provide food for the famishing garrison; while so utterly
destitute did she ultimately become, that she found herself driven to
appeal to the generosity of Elizabeth of Austria, the widow of her
brother Charles IX, who thenceforward supplied her necessities.

In the year 1589 Henry of Navarre ascended the throne of France, having
previously, for the second time, embraced the Catholic faith;[27] but
for a while the _liaisons_ which he found it so facile to form at the
Court, and his continued affection for the Comtesse de Guiche,[28]
together with the internal disturbances and foreign wars which had
convulsed the early years of his reign, so thoroughly engrossed his
attention, that he had made no attempt to separate himself from his
erring and exiled wife; nor was it until 1598, when the Edict of Nantes
had ensured a lasting and certain peace to the Huguenots: and that _la
belle Gabrielle_[29] had replaced Madame de Guiche, and by making him
the father of two sons, had induced him to contemplate (as he had done
in a previous case with her predecessor) her elevation to the throne,
that he became really anxious to liberate himself from the trammels of
his ill-omened marriage.

Having ascertained that the Duc de Bouillon,[30] notwithstanding the
concessions which he had made to the Protestant party, had been recently
engaged, in conjunction with D'Aubigny[31] and other zealous reformers,
in endeavouring to create renewed disaffection among the Huguenots,
Henry resolved to visit Brittany, and personally to express to the Duke
his indignation and displeasure.

On his arrival at Rennes, where M. de Bouillon was confined to his bed
by a violent attack of gout, the King accordingly proceeded to his
residence; where, after having expressed his regret at the state of
suffering in which he found him, he ordered all the attendants to
withdraw, and seating himself near the pillow of the invalid, desired
him to listen without remark or interruption to all that he was about to
say. He then reproached him in the most indignant terms with his
continual and active efforts to disturb the peace of the kingdom,
recapitulating every act, and almost every word, of his astonished and
embarrassed listener, with an accuracy which left no opportunity for
denial; and, finally, he advised him to be warned in time, and, if he
valued his own safety, to adopt a perfectly opposite line of conduct;
assuring him, in conclusion, that should he persist in his present
contumacy, he should himself take measures, as his sovereign and his
master, to render him incapable of working further mischief.

The bewildered Duke would have replied, but he was instantly silenced by
an imperious gesture from the King, who, rising from his seat, left the
chamber in silence.

The presence of Henri IV in Brittany was the signal for festivity and
rejoicing, and all that was fair and noble in the province was soon
collected at Rennes in honour of his arrival; but despite these
demonstrations of affection and respect, his watchful and anxious
minister, the Duc de Sully, remarked that he occasionally gave way to
fits of absence, and even of melancholy, which were quite unusual to
him, and which consequently excited the alarm of the zealous Duke. He
had, moreover, several times desired M. de Sully's attendance in a
manner which induced him to believe that the King had something of
importance to communicate, but the interviews had successively
terminated without any such result; until, on one occasion, a few days
after his interview with the Duc de Bouillon, Henry once more beckoned
him to his side, and turning into a large garden which was attached to
his residence, he there wreathed his fingers in those of the minister,
as was his constant habit, and drawing him into a retired walk,
commenced the conversation by relating in detail all that had passed
between himself and the ducal rebel. He then digressed to recent
political measures, and expressed himself strongly upon the advantages
which tranquillity at home, as well as peace abroad, must ensure to the
kingdom; after which, as if by some process of mental retrogression, he
became suddenly more gloomy in his discourse; and observed, as if
despite himself, that although he would struggle even to the end of his
existence to secure these national advantages, he nevertheless felt that
as the Queen had given him no son, all his endeavours must prove
fruitless; since the contention which would necessarily arise between M.
de Conde and the other Princes of the blood, when the important subject
of the succession gave a free and sufficient motive for their jealousy,
could not fail to renew the civil anarchy which he had been so anxious
to terminate. He then, after a moment's silence, referred to the desire
which had been formally expressed to him by the Parliament of Paris,
that he should separate himself from Marguerite de Valois, and unite
himself with some other princess who might give a Dauphin to France, and
thus transmit to a son of his own line the crown which he now wore.

Sully, who was no less desirous than himself to ensure the prosperity of
the nation to which he had devoted all the energies of his powerful and
active mind, did not hesitate to suggest the expediency of his Majesty's
immediate compliance with the prayer of his subjects, and entreat him in
his turn to obtain a divorce, which by leaving him free, would enable
him to make a happier choice; and he even assured the anxious monarch
that he had already taken steps to ascertain that the Archbishop of
Urbino and the Pope himself (who was fully aware of the importance of
maintaining the peace of Europe, which must necessarily be endangered by
a renewal of the intestine troubles in France) would both readily
facilitate by every means in their power so politic and so desirable
a measure.

Henry urged for a time his disinclination to contract a second marriage,
alleging that his first had proved so unfortunate in every way, that he
was reluctant to rivet anew the chain which had been so rudely riven
asunder; but the unflinching minister did not fail to remind him that
much as he owed to himself, he still owed even more to a people who had
faith in his wisdom and generosity; and the frank-hearted King suffered
himself, although with evident distaste, to be ultimately convinced.

He then began to pass in review all the marriageable princesses who were
eligible to share his throne, but to each in succession he attached some
objection which tended to weaken her claim. After what he had already
undergone, as he declared, there were few women, and still fewer women
of royal blood, to whom he would willingly a second time confide his
chance of happiness. "In order not to encounter once more the same
disappointment and displeasure," he said at length, "I must find in the
next woman whom I may marry seven qualities with which I cannot
dispense. She must be handsome, prudent, gentle, intellectual, fruitful,
wealthy, and of high extraction; and thus I do not know a single
princess in Europe calculated to satisfy my idea of feminine

Then, after a pause during which the minister remained silent, he added,
with some inconsistency: "I would readily put up with the Spanish
Infanta,[32] despite both her age and her ugliness, did I espouse the
Low Countries in her person; neither would I refuse the Princess
Arabella of England,[33] if, as it is alleged, the crown of that country
really belonged to her, or even had she been declared heiress
presumptive; but we cannot reasonably anticipate either contingency. I
have heard also of several German princesses whose names I have
forgotten, but I have no taste for the women of that country; besides
which, it is on record that a German Queen[34] nearly proved the ruin of
the French nation; and thus they inspire me only with disgust."

Still Sully listened without reply, the King having commenced his
confidence by assuming a position which rendered all argument worse
than idle.

"They have talked to me likewise," resumed Henry more hurriedly, as
disconcerted and annoyed by the expressive silence of his companion he
began to walk more rapidly along the shaded path in which this
conference took place; "they have talked to me of the sisters of Prince
Maurice;[35] but not only are they Huguenots, a fact which could not
fail to give umbrage at the Court of Rome, but I have also heard
reports that would render me averse to their alliance. Then the Duke of
Florence has a niece,[36] who is stated to be tolerably handsome, but
she comes of one of the pettiest principalities of Christendom; and not
more than sixty or eighty years ago her ancestors were merely the chief
citizens of the town of which their successors are now the sovereigns;
and, moreover, she is a daughter of the same race as Catherine de
Medicis, who has been alike my own enemy and that of France."

Once more the King paused for breath, and glanced anxiously towards his
minister, but Sully was inexorable, and continued to listen respectfully
and attentively without uttering a syllable.

"So much for the foreign princesses," continued Henry with some
irritation, when he found that his listener had resolved not to assist
him either by word or gesture; "at least, I know of no others. And now
for our own. There is my niece, Mademoiselle de Guise;[37] and she is
one of those whom I should prefer, despite the naughty tales that are
told of her, for I place no faith in them; but she is too much devoted
to the interests of her house, and I have reason to dread the restless
ambition of her brothers."

The Princesses of Mayenne,[38] of Aumale,[39] and of Longueville,[40]
were next the subject of the royal comments; but they were all either
too fair or too dark, too old or too plain; nor were Mesdemoiselles de
Rohan,[41] de Luxembourg,[42] or de Guemenee[43] more fortunate: the
first was a Calvinist, the second too young, and the third not to
his taste.

Long ere the King had arrived at this point of his discourse, the
keen-sighted minister had fathomed his determination to raise some
obstacle in every instance; and he began to entertain a suspicion that
this was not done without a powerful motive, which he immediately became
anxious to comprehend. Thus, therefore, when Henry pressed him to
declare his sentiments upon the subject, he answered cautiously: "I
cannot, in truth, hazard an opinion, Sire; nor can I even understand the
bent of your own wishes. Thus much only do I comprehend--that you
consent to take another wife, but that you can discover no princess
throughout Europe with whom you are willing to share the throne of
France. From the manner in which you spoke of the Infanta, it
nevertheless appeared as though a rich heiress would not be
unacceptable; but surely you do not expect that Heaven will resuscitate
in your favour a Marguerite de Flandres, a Marie de Bourgogne, or even
permit Elizabeth of England to grow young again."

"I anticipate nothing of the kind," was the sharp retort; "but how know
I, even were I to marry one of the princesses I have enumerated, that I
should be more fortunate than I have hitherto been? If beauty and youth
could have ensured to me the blessing of a Dauphin, had I not every
right to anticipate a different result in my union with Madame
Marguerite? I could not brook a second mortification of the like
description, and therefore I am cautious. And now, as I have failed to
satisfy myself upon this point, tell me, do you know of any one woman in
whom are combined all the qualities which I have declared to be
requisite in a Queen of France?"

"The question is one of too important a nature, Sire, to be answered
upon the instant," said Sully, "and the rather that I have never
hitherto turned my attention to the subject."

"And what would you say," asked Henry with ill-concealed anxiety, "were
I to tell you that such an one exists in my own kingdom?"

"I should say, Sire, that you have greatly the advantage over myself;
and also that the lady to whom you allude must necessarily be a widow."

"Just as you please," retorted the King; "but if you refuse to guess, I
will name her."

"Do so," said Sully with increasing surprise; "for I confess that the
riddle is beyond my reach."

"Rather say that you do not wish to solve it," was the cold reply; "for
you cannot deny that all the qualities upon which I insist are to be
found combined in the person of the Duchesse de Beaufort."

"Your mistress, Sire!"

"I do not affirm that I have any intention, in the event of my release
from my present marriage, of making the Duchess my wife," pursued Henry
with some embarrassment; "but I was anxious to learn what you would say,
if, unable to find another woman to my taste, I should one day see fit
to do so."

"Say, Sire?" echoed the minister, struggling to conceal his
consternation under an affected gaiety; "I should probably be of the
same opinion as the rest of your subjects."

[Illustration: GABRIELLE D'ESTREES. [Paris Richard Bentley and Son

The King had, however, made so violent an effort over himself, in order
to test the amount of forbearance which he might anticipate in his
favourite counsellor, and was so desirous to ascertain his real
sentiments upon this important subject, that he exclaimed impatiently:
"I command you to speak freely; you have acquired the right to utter
unpalatable truths; do not, therefore, fear that I shall take offence
whenever our conversation is purely confidential, although I should
assuredly resent such a liberty in public."

The reply of the upright minister, thus authorized, was worthy alike of
the monarch who had made such an appeal, and of the man to whom it was
addressed. He placed before the eyes of his royal master the opprobrium
with which an alliance of the nature at which he had hinted must
inevitably cover his own name, and the affront it would entail upon
every sovereign in Europe. He reminded him also that the legitimation of
the sons of Madame de Beaufort, and the extraordinary and strictly regal
ceremonies which he had recently permitted at the baptism of the younger
of the two (throughout the whole of which the infant had been recognized
as a prince of the blood-royal, although the King had himself refused to
allow the registry of the proceedings until they were revised, and the
obnoxious passages rescinded), could not fail, should she ever become
Queen of France, in the event of her having other children, to plunge
the nation into those very struggles for the succession from which he
had just declared his anxiety to preserve it.

"And this strife, Sire," he concluded fearlessly, "would be even more
formidable and more frightful than that to which you so anxiously
alluded; for you will do well to remember that not only the arena in
which it must take place will be your own beloved kingdom of France,
while the whole of civilised Europe stands looking on, but that it will
be a contest between the son of M. de Liancourt and the King's
mistress--the son of Madame de Monceaux, the divorced wife of an obscure
noble, and the declared favourite of the sovereign; and, finally,
between these, the children of shame, and the Dauphin of France, the son
of Henri IV and his Queen. I leave you, Sire, to reflect upon this
startling fact before I venture further."

"And you do well," said the monarch, as he turned away; "for truly you
have said enough for once." [44]

It will be readily conceived that at the close of this conference M. de
Sully was considerably less anxious than before to effect the divorce of
the infatuated sovereign; nor was he sorry to remind Henry, when he next
touched upon the subject, that they had both been premature in
discussing the preliminaries of a second marriage before they had
succeeded in cancelling the first. It was true that Clement VIII, in his
desire to maintain the peace of Europe, had readily entered into the
arguments of MM. de Marquemont,[45] d'Ossat,[46] and Duperron,[47] whom
the Duke had, by command of the monarch, entrusted with this difficult
and dangerous mission, when they represented that the birth of a dauphin
must necessarily avert all risk of a civil war in France, together with
the utter hopelessness of such an event unless their royal master were
released from his present engagements; and that the sovereign-pontiff
had even expressed his willingness to second the washes of the French
monarch. But the consent of Marguerite herself was no less important;
and with a view to obtain this, the minister addressed to her a letter,
in which he expressed his ardent desire to effect a reconciliation
between herself and the King, in order that the prayers of the nation
might be answered by the birth of a Dauphin; or, should she deem such an
event impossible, to entreat of her to pardon him if he ventured to take
the liberty of imploring her Majesty to make a still greater sacrifice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is, from this circumstance, sufficiently clear that Henry himself was

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