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

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surrounded, knew no bounds; and the heart of that exulting mother, which
was fated afterwards to be broken by his unnatural abandonment, beat
high with gratitude to Heaven as her ear drank in the enthusiastic
shouts of the multitude, and as she remembered that it was herself who
had bestowed this well-appreciated blessing upon France.


[76] Charles de Neufville, Marquis d'Alincourt, Seigneur de Villeroy,
secretary and minister of state, knight of the King's Orders, Governor
of the city of Lyons, and of the provinces of Lyons, Forez, and

[77] Mezeray, vol. x. pp. 124, 125.

[78] Sully, _Mem_. vol. iii. p. 317.

[79] Mezeray, vol. x. p. 125.

[80] Charles Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy, surnamed the Great, was born in
the chateau of Rivoles on the 12th of January 1562. He greatly
distinguished himself by his gallantry upon several occasions, but
tarnished his reputation by an ambition which was unscrupulous. He was
remarkable for his literary attainments and for his friendship for men
of letters, and was generally esteemed one of the greatest generals of
the age. He was also so thorough a diplomatist that it was commonly
remarked that it was more difficult to penetrate his designs than the
fastnesses of his duchy. He died at Savillan on the 26th of July 1630.

[81] Charles de Gontault, Due de Biron, Peer, Admiral, and Marshal of
France, acquired great reputation alike for his valour and his services.
He was honoured with the confidence of Henri IV, who created the barony
of Biron into a duchy-peerage for his benefit, and loaded him with
proofs of his favour; Biron, however, repaid his sovereign with the
basest ingratitude by entering into a treaty with the Duke of Savoy and
the Spaniards, who were both inimical to France. Having refused to
acknowledge his fault, and thereby exhausted the forbearance of the
King, he was put upon his trial, convicted of the crime of
_lese-majeste,_ and condemned to lose his head. The sentence was carried
into execution in the court of the Bastille on the 31st of July 1602.

[82] Guichenon, _Histoire de Savoie_.

[83] Daniel, _Histoire de France_, vol. vii. p. 386.

[84] L'Etoile, _Journal de Henri IV_, vol. ii. p. 481.

[85] L'Etoile, vol. ii. pp. 436, 437.

[86] Mezeray, vol. x. p. 127.

[87] Sebastian Zamet was a wealthy contractor, of Italian origin, but
who had caused himself to be naturalized in France, in 1581, together
with his two brothers, Horace and John-Anthony Zamet. Although he
ultimately became the father of an adjutant-general of the King's
armies, and of a bishop, it was confidently asserted that during the
preceding reign he had been a shoemaker. Be that as it may, it is no
less certain that he must have possessed considerable talent, as even
during the lifetime of Henri III he was already a rich contractor, and
under Henri IV he was esteemed the richest in the kingdom. On the
occasion of the marriage of one of his daughters, the notary who was
employed to draw up the marriage contract, finding it difficult to
define his real rank, inquired by what title he desired to be
designated; upon which Zamet calmly replied: "You may describe me as the
_lord of seventeen hundred thousand crowns_." His ready wit first
procured for him the favour off Henri IV, which he subsequently retained
by a system of complaisance of thoroughly Italian morality. His house
was always open to the King, even for the most equivocal purposes; and
so great was the familiarity with which he was treated by the dissolute
monarch, that the latter constantly addressed him by a pet name, and
held many of his orgies beneath his roof.

[88] L'Etoile, vol. ii. pp. 492, 493.

[89] Dreux du Radier, vol. vi. p. 58 _n_.

[90] L'Etoile, vol. ii. pp. 511, 512.

[91] Sully had recently been appointed grand-master of artillery.

[92] Saint-Edme, vol. ii. p. 207.

[93] Dreux du Radier, vol. vi. pp. 74-76.

[94] Louis de Comboursier, Seigneur du Terrail, commenced his military
career as a cornet in the troop of the Dauphin. He was brave, but
haughty and reckless, and was obliged to retire into Flanders in
consequence of having killed a man under the eyes of the King, and
within the precincts of the Louvre. After making a pilgrimage to the
shrine of Our Lady of Loretto, he profited by his return through Turin
to pay his respects to the Duke of Savoy, to whom he offered his
services and assistance in his project of taking the city of Genoa by
surprise. The plot was, however, discovered by a valet, who apprised the
authorities of the intended treachery; and Du Terrail together with a
companion whom he had associated in the enterprise were imprisoned in
the castle of Yverdun, and thence conveyed to Genoa, where they were
both decapitated, in the year 1609.

[95] Charles de Crequy was the representative of one of the most ancient
families in France, which traced its descent from Arnoul, called the
_Old_, or the _Bearded_, who died in 897. The elder branch of the house
became extinct in the person of Antoine de Crequy, Cardinal and Bishop
of Amiens, born in 1531, and who at his death, which occurred in the
year 1574, left all his personal wealth, together with the family
possessions which he inherited from his brothers, to Antoine de
Blanchefort, the son of his sister, Marie de Crequy, on condition that
he should bear the name and arms of his mother. The son of Antoine was
Charles de Crequy, de Blanchefort, and de Canaples, Prince de Poix,
Governor of Dauphiny, peer and marshal of France, who became Due de
Lesdiguieres by his marriage with Madelaine de Bonne, daughter of the
celebrated Connetable de Lesdiguieres, in 1611. His duel with Don
Philippino, the bastard of Savoy, in which he killed his adversary,
acquired for him a great celebrity; but he secured a more legitimate and
desirable reputation by his gallantry in the taking of Pignerol and La
Maurienne, in 1630. Three years subsequently he was sent as ambassador
to Rome; in 1636 he conquered the Spanish forces on the Ticino; and in
1638 he was killed by a cannon ball, at the siege of Bremen, in Hanover.

[96] Perefixe, _Histoire de Henri le Grand_, vol. ii. pp. 329-33.

[97] Saint-Edme, vol. ii. pp. 211, 212.

[98] Montfaucon, vol. v. p. 402.

[99] L'Etoile, vol. ii. pp. 534-537.

[100] _Hist. des Reines et Regentes de France_, vol. ii. p. 28.

[101] Malherbe, the favourite poet of Marie de Medicis, profited by the
tediousness of her voyage to make it the subject of an allegory, in
which he represents that Neptune

"Dix jours ne pouvant se distraire
Au plaisir de la regarder,
Il a, par un effort contraire,
Essaye de la retarder."

A specimen of his godship's gallantry, with which the young sovereign
would, in all probability, most willingly have dispensed.

[102] L'Etoile, vol. ii. p. 537.

[103] Valadier, year 1600.

[104] M. de Sillery.

[105] Henri I. de Montmorency, duke, peer, marshal, and Constable of
France, Governor of Languedoc, etc., was the second son of the
celebrated Anne de Montmorency. He rendered himself famous, during the
lifetime of his father, under the name of the Seigneur de Damville, and
made prisoner the Prince de Conde at the battle of Dreux in 1562. Having
subsequently incurred the displeasure of Catherine de Medicis, he
retired to the Court of the Duke of Savoy, and became the leader of the
malcontents in Languedoc during the reign of Henri III. Henri IV
restored him to all his honours, and made him Constable of France, and a
knight of the Order of the Holy Ghost, in 1593. He died at an advanced
age, in the town of Agde, in 1614.

[106] Charles Amedee de Savoie, Duc de Nemours, was the son of Jacques
de Savoie and of Anne d'Este, whose first husband was the Duc de Guise.
This lady made herself very conspicuous during the _League_. Charles
Amedee married Elisabeth, the sister of Cesar de Vendome, Duc de
Beaufort, and during the _Fronde_ attached himself to the party of the
princes; but having quarrelled with his brother-in-law, he was killed by
him in a duel, in the year 1652.

[107] Anne de Levis, Duc de Ventadour, was the representative of one of
the most ancient and illustrious families of France, which derived its
name from the estate of Levis, near Chevreuse, where his ancestor, Guy
de Levis, a famous general, founded in the year 1190 the abbey of
La Roche.

[108] Valadier, year 1600.

[109] Guillaume du Vair, ultimately Bishop of Lisieux, and Keeper of the
Seals, was the son of Jean du Vair, knight, and attorney-general of
Catherine de Medicis and Henri de France, Duc d'Anjou. He was born at
Paris on the 8th of March 1556, and was successively councillor of
parliament, master of requests, first president of the Parliament of
Provence, and finally (in 1616) keeper of the seals. He subsequently
embraced the ecclesiastical profession, and was elevated to the see of
Lisieux in 1618. He was a man of consummate talent; and his works, which
were published in folio in Paris, in 1641, are still highly esteemed.
Guillaume du Vair died at Tonnoins, in Agenois, in 1621, at the age of
sixty-six years.

[110] _Chronologie Septennaire_, p. 184.

[111] Francois Suares, a celebrated scholar and theologian, was born at
Granada in 1548, and in 1564 became a Jesuit. He taught theology, with
great success, at Alcala, Salamanca, Rome, and Coimbra; and died at
Lisbon in 1617. His collected works were published in twenty-three folio
volumes, and are principally treatises on theology and morals. His
treatise on the laws was reprinted in England.

[112] L'Etoile, _Journal de Henri IV_, vol. ii. p. 589.

[113] Cayet, p. 187. L'Etoile, vol. i. pp. 539, 540.

[114] Rambure, _MS. Mem_. vol. i. pp. 276, 277.

[115] Albert de Bellievre was the second son of the celebrated
Chancellor Pomponne de Bellievre and of Marie Prunier, demoiselle de
Grignon. He was a distinguished classic and an elegant scholar. Having
become Archbishop of Lyons, he subsequently transferred that dignity to
his younger brother Claude, and retired to his abbey of Jouy, where he
died in 1621.

[116] Antoine de Roquelaure, Seigneur de Roquelaure in Armagnac, de
Guadoux, etc., marshal of France, grand-master of the King's wardrobe,
knight of the Orders of St. Michael and the Holy Ghost, perpetual mayor
of Bordeaux, etc., was the younger son of Geraud Roquelaure, and the
representative of an illustrious house. He was highly esteemed both by
Jeanne d'Albret, Queen of Navarre, and by Henry IV, who loaded him with
honours and distinctions in requital of his faithful and zealous
services. He subsequently became governor of several provinces, and was
created a marshal of France by Louis XIII, in 1615. He restored to their
allegiance Clerac, Nerac, and several other revolted fortesses; and died
at Lectoure in 1625, at the age of eighty-two years.

[117] Daniel, vol. vii. p. 398.

[118] Duc de Bellegarde.

[119] Francois de Joyeuse was the second son of Guillaume, Vicomte de
Joyeuse, Marshal of France. He was born in the year 1562, and received a
brilliant education, by which he profited so greatly as to become
celebrated for his scientific attainments. He was successively
Archbishop of Narbonne, of Toulouse, and of Rouen; and enjoyed the
entire confidence of three monarchs, by each of whom he was entrusted
with the most important state affairs. Highly esteemed, alike for his
wisdom, prudence, and capacity, he died full of honours at the age of
fifty-three years, at Avignon, where he had taken up his abode as senior
cardinal. He left, as monuments of his piety, a seminary which he
founded at Rouen, a residence for the Jesuits at Pontoise, and another
for the Fathers of the Oratory at Dieppe.

[120] Pierre de Gondy (or Gondi), Bishop of Langres, and subsequently
Archbishop of Paris, who was called to the Conclave by Pope Sixtus V in
1587. He died at Paris in February 1616, at the advanced age of
eighty-four years. The Cardinal de Gondy was the first Archbishop of
Paris, the metropolis having previously been only an episcopal see.

[121] Francois d'Escoubleau, better known under the name of Cardinal de
Sourdis, was the son of Francois d'Escoubleau, Marquis d'Alliere, and
was of an ancient and noble house. He distinguished himself so greatly
by his mental and moral qualities as to secure the confidence and regard
of Henri IV, who, in 1598, obtained for him a cardinal's hat; and in the
following year he was created Archbishop of Bordeaux, in which city he
died in 1628.

[122] Cayet, p. 191.

[123] L'Etoile, vol. ii. p. 546.

[124] Bassompierre, _Mem_. p. 25.

[125] L'Etoile, vol. ii. p. 549.

[126] Jerome (or Albert) de Gondy, peer of France, knight of the King's
Orders, and first gentleman of the bedchamber, occupied the mansion
which was subsequently known as the Hotel de Conde. He enjoyed the
confidence of Catherine de Medicis and Charles IX so fully, that he had
the honour of espousing, in the name of that monarch, the Princess
Elizabeth of Austria, daughter of the Emperor Maximilian II. At the
coronation of Henri III he represented the person of the Constable; and
at that of Henri IV, he was proxy for the Comte de Toulouse.

[127] Anne d'Este, Duchesse de Nemours, was the mother of the Duc de
Mayenne, and grandmother of the young Due de Guise who aspired to the
throne. She was first married to Francois de Lorraine, Duc de Guise, and
subsequently to Jacques de Savoie, Duc de Nemours, whose son, after his
decease, also pretended to the crown.

[128] One historian (Sauval., _Gallerie des Rois de France_, vol. i.)
asserts that the King himself presented his mistress to his wife; but he
is unsupported in this statement save by Bassompierre, who also says:
"The King presented Madame de Verneuil to her, who was graciously
received" _(Memoires,_ p. 25). Every other authority, however,
contradicts this assertion, which is indeed too monstrous to
be credible.

[129] L'Etoile, vol. i. p. 550.

[130] This residence, which was situated near the Bastille, and
subsequently known as the Hotel de Lesdiguieres, was the same in which
_la belle Gabrielle_ had breathed her last.

[131] Bassompierre, _Mem_. p. 25.

[132] Wraxall, _History of France_, vol. vi. p. 187.

[133] L'Etoile, vol. ii. pp. 550, 551.

[134] Bassompierre, _Mem_. p. 25.

[135] Bassompierre, _Mem_. p. 50.

[136] L'Etoile, vol. iii. pp. 505, 506.

[137] Sully, _Mem_. vol. vii. pp. 180, 181.

[138] Leonora Dori, otherwise Galigai, was the daughter of the nurse of
Marie de Medicis (who was the wife of a carpenter), and she was
consequently the architect of her own fortunes. By her great talent and
insinuating manners, she had, however, succeeded not only in securing
the affection of her royal patroness, but also in exerting an influence
over her actions never attained by any other individual, despite
unceasing attempts to oust her.

[139] Suzanne de la Porte, wife of Francois du Plessis, Seigneur de
Richelieu, Knight of the Royal Orders, and Grand Provost of France.

[140] Concino Concini was the son of a notary, who, by his talent, had
risen to be secretary of state at Florence.

[141] Dreux du Radier, _Memoires des Reines et Regentes de France_, vol.
vi. p. 81. Conti, _Amours du Grand Alcandre_, Cologne edition, 1652,
p. 41.

[142] Perefixe, vol. ii. p. 346. L'Etoile, vol. ii. pp. 573, 574.

[143] Matthieu, vol. ii. p. 441.

[144] Mezeray, vol. x. p. 178.

[145] Daniel, vol. vii. p. 407.

[146] Matthieu, _Hist. de Henri IV_, vol. i. p. 307.

[147] Charles I. de Bourbon, Cardinal-Archbishop of Rouen, legate of
Avignon, abbot of St. Denis, of St. Germain-des-Pres, of St. Ouen, of
Ste. Catherine of Rouen, and of Orcamp, etc., was the son of Charles,
Duc de Vendome, and was born in 1523. After the death of Henri III, in
1589, he was proclaimed King by the Leaguers and the Duc de Mayenne
under the title of Charles X. Taken captive by Henri IV, of whom he was
the paternal uncle, he was imprisoned at Fontenay, where he died
in 1594.

[148] De Thou, vol. xi. pp. 154, 155.

[149] Charles, the natural son of Anthony of Navarre and of Mademoiselle
de la Beraudiere de la Guiche, one of the maids of honour to Catherine
de Medicis.

[150] Such was the plea of the Marechal de Biron during his imprisonment
in the Bastille.

[151] Charles Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy, whose intellect had in other
respects outrun his age, and whose shrewd good sense should have
emancipated him from so gross an abuse of reason, never undertook any
measure of importance without consulting the astrologers. See De Thou,
vol. xiii. p. 538.

[152] See the Memoirs of Sully.

[153] It is a certain fact that Henri IV, however he might verbally
despise the pretensions of those who exercised what has been happily
designated as the "black art," nevertheless admitted more than once a
conviction of their mysterious privileges.

[154] De Thou, vol. x. p. 375.

[155] M. de la Riviere had originally been the chief medical attendant
of the Due de Bouillon, who ceded him to Henri IV, by whom he was
appointed his body-surgeon, in which office he succeeded M. d'Aliboust.
He was born at Falaise, in Normandy, and was the son of Jean Ribel,
professor of theology at Geneva. He himself, however, embraced the
reformed religion, and died in 1605, sincerely regretted by the monarch,
to whom his eminent talents and unwearied devotion had greatly
endeared him.

[156] Sully, _Mem_. vol. vi. pp. 46-49.

[157] Gaston Henri, the son of Henri IV and of Henriette d'Entragues,
Marquise de Verneuil, originally took orders, and became the incumbent
of several abbeys, among others that of St. Germain-des-Pres. He was
subsequently made Bishop of Metz, and bore that title for a considerable
time. On the 1st of January 1662, having been created a knight of the
Order of the Holy Ghost, and in the following year a duke and peer, he
took the title of Duc de Verneuil, and as such was sent to England in
1665 as ambassador extraordinary. Finally, in 1666, Louis XIV bestowed
upon him the government of Languedoc, when he sold his church
property, and married (in 1668) Charlotte Seguier, the widow of
Maximilien-Francois de Bethune III, Duc de Sully. He died without issue,
at Versailles, on the 28th of May 1682.



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 Dues 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 Fontainebleau--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.

The convalescence of the Queen was the signal for a succession of
festivities, and the whole winter was spent in gaiety and dissipation;
banquets, ballets, and hunting-parties succeeded each other with
bewildering rapidity; and so magnificent were several of the Court
festivals that even some of the gravest historians of the time did not
disdain to record them. The most brilliant of the whole, however, and
that which will best serve to exemplify the taste of the period, was the
ballet to which allusion has already been made as given in honour of the
King by his royal consort, and in which Marie de Medicis herself
appeared. In order to heighten its effect she had selected fifteen of
the most beautiful women of the Court, Madame de Verneuil being,
according to the royal promise, one of the number; and the first part of
the exhibition took place at the Louvre. The entertainment commenced
with the entrance of Apollo and the nine Muses into the great hall of
the palace, which was thronged with native and foreign princes,
ambassadors, and ministers, in the midst of whom sat the King with the
Papal Nuncio on his right hand. The god and his attendants sang the
glory of the monarch, the pacificator of Europe; and each stanza
terminated with the somewhat fulsome and ungraceful words:

"Il faut que tout vous rende hommage,
Grand Roi, miracle de notre age."

Thence the whole gay and gallant company proceeded to the Hotel de
Guise, where the eight maids of honour of the Queen performed the second
act; and this was no sooner concluded than the brilliant revellers
removed to the archiepiscopal palace, where the Queen appeared in person
upon the scene, with her suite divided into four quadrilles. Marie
herself represented Venus, and led by the hand Cesar de Vendome[158]
attired as Cupid; when the splendour of her jewels produced so startling
an effect that murmurs of astonishment and admiration ran through the
hall. Gratified at the sensation caused by the unexampled magnificence
and grace of his royal consort, Henry smilingly inquired of the Nuncio
"if he had ever before seen so fine a squadron?"

"_Bellissimo e pericolosissimo_!" was the reply of the gallant prelate.

Each of the ladies composing the party of the Queen represented a
_virtue_,\ an arrangement which, when it is remembered that Madame de
Verneuil was one of the chosen, rendered their attributes at least
equivocal. This royal ballet was nevertheless considered worthy of a
poetical immortality by Berthault,[159] a popular bard of the day, who
left little behind him worthy of preservation, but who enjoyed great
vogue among the fashionables of the Court at that period. Its most
important result was, however, the marriage of Concini and Leonora; to
which, in consideration of the honour done to the favourite by the
Queen, Henry withdrew his opposition; even authorizing his royal consort
to bestow rich presents upon the bride, and to celebrate the nuptials
with considerable ceremony.[160]

All these royal diversions were suddenly and disagreeably terminated
some months afterwards by an intrigue which once more threw the King and
his courtiers into a state of agitation and discomfort.

As regards Marie de Medicis herself, she had long ceased to derive any
gratification from the splendid festivities of which she was one of the
brightest ornaments; her ill-judged indulgence, far from exciting the
gratitude of Madame de Verneuil, having rendered the insolent favourite
still more arrogant and overbearing. To such an extent, indeed, did the
Marquise carry her presumption, that she affected to believe herself
indebted for the forbearance of the Queen to the conviction of the
latter that she had a superior claim upon the monarch to her own; and
while she permitted herself to comment upon the words, actions, and
tastes, and even upon the personal peculiarities of her royal mistress,
she declared her conviction of the legality of the written promise
obtained by her from the King; and announced her determination, now that
she had become the mother of a son, to enforce its observance.

These monstrous pretensions, which were soon made known to the Queen,
at once wounded and exasperated her feelings; and she anxiously awaited
the moment when some new imprudence of the favourite should open the
eyes of the monarch to her delinquency, as she had already become aware
that mere argument on her own part would avail nothing.

Several writers, and among them even female ones, yielding to the
prestige attached to the name of Henri IV, have sought the solution of
all his domestic discomfort in the "Italian jealousy" of Marie de
Medicis; but surely it is not difficult to excuse it under circumstances
of such extraordinary trial. Marie was a wife, a mother, and a queen;
and in each of these characters she was insulted and outraged. As a
wife, she saw her rights invaded--as a mother, the legitimacy of her son
questioned--and as a queen her dignity compromised. What very inferior
causes have produced disastrous effects even in private life! The only
subject of astonishment which can be rationally entertained is the
comparative patience with which at this period of her career she
submitted to the humiliations that were heaped upon her.

In vain did she complain to her royal consort of the insulting calumnies
of Madame de Verneuil; he either affected to disbelieve that she had
been guilty of such absurd assumption, or reproached Marie with a want
of self-respect in listening to the idle tattle of eavesdroppers and
sycophants; alleging that her foreign followers, spoiled by her
indulgence, and encouraged by her credulity, were the scourge of his
Court; and that she would do well to dismiss them before they
accomplished her own unhappiness. A hint to this effect always sufficed
to silence the Queen, to whom the society and support of Leonora and her
husband were becoming each day more necessary; and thus she devoured her
tears and stifled her wretchedness, trusting that the arrogance and
presumption of the Marquise would ultimately serve her better than her
own remonstrances.

Such was the position of affairs when the intrigue to which allusion has
been already made promised to produce the desired result; and it can
create no surprise that Marie should eagerly indulge the hope of
delivering herself from an obnoxious and formidable rival, when the
opportunity presented itself of accomplishing so desirable an end
without betraying her own agency.

During the lifetime of _la belle Gabrielle_, her sister, Juliette
Hippolyte d'Estrees, Marquise de Cerisay, who in 1597 became the wife of
Georges de Brancas, Duc de Villars, had attracted the attention of the
King, whose dissipated tastes were always flattered by novelty; although
if we are to credit the statements of the Princesse de Conti, this lady,
so far from rivalling the beauty of her younger sister, had no personal
charms to recommend her beyond _her youth and her hair_.[161] Being as
unscrupulous as the Duchesse de Beaufort herself, Juliette exulted in
the idea of captivating the King, and left no effort untried to secure
her supposed conquest; but this caprice on the part of Henry was only
momentary, and in his passion for Henriette d'Entragues, he soon forgot
his passing fancy for Madame de Villars. The Duchess herself, however,
was far from being equally oblivious; and listening to the dictates of
her ambition and self-love, she became persuaded that she was indebted
to the Marquise alone for the sudden coldness of the King; and
accordingly she vowed an eternal hatred to the woman whom she considered
in the light of a successful rival. Up to the present period, anxious as
she was to avenge her wounded vanity, she had been unable to secure an
opportunity of revenge; but having at this particular moment won the
affection of the Prince de Joinville,[162] who had been a former lover
of Madame de Verneuil, and with whom, as she was well aware, he had
maintained an active correspondence, she made his surrender of the
letters of that lady the price of her own honour. For a time the Prince
hesitated; he felt all the disloyalty of such a concession; but those
were not times in which principles waged an equal war against passion;
and the letters were ultimately placed in the possession of Madame
de Villars.

The Duchess was fully cognizant of the fact that it was from an impulse
of self-preservation alone that M. de Joinville had been induced to
forego his suit to the favourite, and to absent himself from the Court,
a consideration which should have aroused her delicacy as a woman; but
she was by no means disposed to yield to so inconvenient a weakness; and
she had consequently no sooner secured the coveted documents than she
prepared to profit by her good fortune.

Henriette d'Entragues had really loved the Prince--if indeed so venal
and vicious a woman can be supposed capable of loving anything save
herself--and thus the letters which were transferred to Madame de
Villars, many of them having been written immediately after the
separation of the lovers, were filled with regrets at his absence,
professions of unalterable affection, and disrespectful expressions
concerning the King and Queen; the latter of whom was ridiculed and
slandered without pity. It is easy to imagine the triumphant joy of the
Duchess. She held her enemy at her mercy, and she had no inclination to
be merciful. She read and re-read the precious letters; and finally,
after deep reflection, her plans were matured.

The Princesse de Conti was her personal friend, and was, moreover,
attached to the household of the Queen, to whom Madame de Villars, from
circumstances which require no comment, had hitherto been comparatively
a stranger. Marie de Medicis, who had experienced little sympathy from
the great ladies of the Court, having thrown herself principally upon
her Italian followers for society, had in consequence been cold and
distant in her deportment to the French members of her circle; who, on
their side, trammelled by the rigorous propriety of her conduct, were
quite satisfied to be partially overlooked, in order that their own less
scrupulous bearing might pass unnoticed by so rigid a censor; and thus,
when, upon the earnest request of Madame de Villars to be introduced to
the more intimate acquaintance of the Queen, the Princess succeeded in
obtaining for her the privilege of the _petites entrees_ (unaware of the
powerful passport to favour which she possessed), she found it difficult
to account for the eagerness with which the ordinarily unapproachable
Marie greeted the appearance and courted the society of the astute
Duchess; nor did she for an instant dream that by facilitating the
intercourse between them, she was undermining the fortunes of a brother
whom she loved.

It appears extraordinary that of all the ladies about the Queen, Madame
de Villars should have selected the sister of the Prince de Joinville to
enable her to effect her purpose; but let her have acted from whatever
motive she might, it is certain that day by day her favour became more
marked; and the circumstance which most excited the surprise of Madame
de Conti, was the fact that her _protegee_ was often closeted with the
Queen when, for reasons sufficiently obvious, she herself and even
Leonora Galigai were excluded. In encouraging the vengeance of her new
friend, Marie was well aware that she was committing an imprudence from
which the more far-seeing Florentine would have dissuaded her; and thus,
with that impetuosity which was destined through life to be her scourge,
she resolved only to consult her own feelings. The secret of this new
discovery was consequently not divulged to her favourite; and as her
cheek burned and her eye flashed, while lingering over the insults to
which she had been subjected by the unscrupulous mistress of the
monarch, she urged Madame de Villars to lose no time in communicating
the contents of the obnoxious letters to her sovereign.

The undertaking was difficult as well as dangerous; and in the case of
the Duchess it required more than usual tact and caution. She had not
only to encounter the risk of arousing the anger of Henry by accusing
the woman whom he loved, but also to combat his wounded vanity when he
should see his somewhat mature passion made a subject of ridicule, and,
at the same time, to conceal her own motive for the treachery of which
she was guilty. This threefold trial, even daring as she was, the
Duchess feared to hazard. In communicating the fatal letters to the
Queen, she had calculated that the indignation and jealousy of the
Italian Princess would instigate her to take instant possession of so
formidable a weapon against her most dangerous enemy, and to work out
her own vengeance; but Marie had learnt prudence from past experience,
and she was anxious to conceal her own agency in the cabal until she
could avow it with a certainty of triumph. Perceiving the reluctance of
Madame de Villars to take the initiative, she hastened to explain to
her the suspicion which would naturally be engendered in the mind of the
King, should he imagine that the affair had been preconcerted to satisfy
her private animosity; and moreover suggested that the Duchess should,
in her interview with the monarch, carefully avoid even the mention of
her name. Encouragement and entreaties followed this caution; while a
few rich presents sufficed to convince her auditor--and ultimately,
Madame de Villars (who had too long waited patiently for such an
opportunity of revenge to shrink from her purpose when it was secured to
her), having gained the favour and confidence of the Queen at the
expense of her rival, resolved to terminate her task.

The pretext of urgent business easily procured for her a private
interview with the King, for the name of D'Estrees still acted like a
spell upon the mind and heart of Henry, and the Duchess was a consummate
tactician. Notice was given to her of the day on which the sovereign
would visit St. Denis; and as she presented herself in the lateral
chapel where he had just concluded his devotions, Henry made a sign for
his attendant nobles to withdraw, when the Duchess found herself in a
position to explain her errand, and to assure him that she had only been
induced to make the present disclosure from her affection for his
person, and the gratitude which she owed to him for the many benefits
that she had experienced from his condescension. Having briefly dwelt on
the contents of the letters which she delivered into his keeping, she
did not even seek an excuse for the means by which they had come into
her own possession, but concluded by observing: "I could not reconcile
it to my conscience, Sire, to conceal so great an outrage; I should have
felt like a criminal myself, had I been capable of suffering in silence
such treason against the greatest king, the best master, and the most
gallant gentleman on earth." [163]

Henry was not proof against this compliment. He believed himself to be
all that the Duchess had asserted, but he liked to hear his own opinion
confirmed by the lips of others; and, although smarting under the
mortification of wounded vanity occasioned by the contents of the
letters of his perfidious mistress, he smiled complacently upon Madame
de Villars, thanking her for her zeal and attachment to his person, and
assuring her that both were fully appreciated.

She had no sooner retired than, as the Queen had previously done, he
repeatedly read over each letter in turn until his patience gave way
under the task; when hastily summoning the Duc de Lude, he desired him
to forthwith proceed to the apartments of the Marquise, and inform her
in his name that "she was a perfidious woman, a monster, and the most
wicked of her sex; and that he was resolved never to see her
again." [164]

At this period Madame de Verneuil had quitted the palace, and was
residing in an hotel in the city, which had been presented to her by the
King: a fortunate circumstance for the envoy, who required time and
consideration to enable him to execute his onerous mission in a manner
that might not tend to his own subsequent discomfiture; but on the
delivery of the royal message, which even the courtly De Lude could not
divest of its offensive character, Madame de Verneuil (who was well
aware that the King, however he might yield to his momentary anger, was
even less able to dispense with her society than she herself was to lose
the favour which alone preserved her from the ignominy her conduct had
justly merited) did not for an instant lose her self-possession. "Tell
his Majesty," she replied, as calmly as though a sense of innocence had
given her strength, "that being perfectly assured that I have never been
guilty of word or deed which could justly incur his anger, I cannot
imagine what can have induced him to treat me with so little
consideration. That some one has traduced me, I cannot doubt; but I
shall be revenged by a discovery of the truth." [165]

She then rose from her seat, and retired to her private room, much more
alarmed and agitated than she was willing to betray. De Lude had, during
the interview, suffered a few remarks to escape him from which she was
enabled to guess whence the blow had come; and conscious of the enormity
of her imprudence, she lost no time in confiding to her most
confidential friends the difficulty of her position, and entreated them
to discover some method by which she might escape its consequences.

As had been previously arranged with the Queen, Madame de Villars, at
her audience of the King, had carefully abstained from betraying the
share which his consort had taken in the intrigue, and had assumed to
herself the very equivocal honour of the whole proceeding; and it was,
consequently, against the Duchess alone that the anger of the favourite
was excited. Even the Prince de Joinville was forgiven, when with
protestations of repentance he threw himself at the feet of the
Marquise, and implored her pardon--he could scarcely fail to be
understood by such a woman, when he pleaded the extremes to which
passion and disappointment could urge an ardent nature--while the Duc de
Bellegarde was no sooner informed by the Princesse de Conti that the
fortune, and perhaps even the life, of her brother were involved in the
affair, than he devoted himself to her cause.

We have already stated that the time was not one of unnecessary scruple,
and the peril of the Marquise was imminent. The letters not only
existed, but were in the hands of the King: no honest or simple remedy
could be suggested for such a disaster; and thus, as it was imperative
to clear Madame de Verneuil from blame in order to save the Prince, it
was ultimately determined to deny the authenticity of the documents, and
to attribute the forgery to a secretary of the Duc de Guise, who was
celebrated for his aptitude in imitating every species of handwriting.
The attempt was hazardous; but the infatuation of Henry for the
fascinating favourite was so well known, that the conspirators were
assured of the eagerness with which he would welcome any explanation,
however doubtful; and they accordingly instructed the Marquise boldly to
disavow the authorship of the obnoxious packet. The advice was,
unfortunately, somewhat tardy; as, in her first terror, Madame de
Verneuil had declared her inability to deny that she had written the
letters which had aroused the anger of the King; but she modified the
admission, by declaring that her hand had betrayed her heart, and that
she had never felt what, in a moment of pique and annoyance, she had
permitted herself to express. These were, however, mere words; and she
had no sooner become cognizant of the expedients suggested by her
advisers than she resolved to gainsay them; and accordingly, without a
moment's hesitation, she despatched a message to the monarch to entreat
that he would allow her to justify herself.

For a few days Henry remained inexorable, but at length his passion
triumphed over his pride; and instead of summoning the Marquise to his
presence as a criminal he proceeded to her residence, listened blindly
to her explanations, became, or feigned to become, convinced by her
arguments, and ultimately confessing himself to have been sufficiently
credulous to be the culprit rather than the judge, he made a peace with
his exulting mistress, which was cemented by a donation of six
thousand livres.

As is usual in such cases, all the blame was now visited upon her
accusers. Madame de Villars was exiled from the Court--a sentence to her
almost as terrible as that of death, wedded as she was to a court-life,
and by this unexpected result, separated from the Prince de Joinville,
whose pardon she had hoped to secure by her apparent zeal for the honour
of the monarch. The Prince himself was directed to proceed forthwith to
Hungary to serve against the Turks; and the unfortunate secretary, who
had been an unconscious instrument in the hands of the able
conspirators, and whom it was necessary to consider guilty of a crime
absolutely profitless to himself whatever might be its result, was
committed to a prison; there to moralize at his leisure upon the vices
of the great.

No mortification could, however, equal that of the Queen; who, having
felt assured of the ruin of her rival, had incautiously betrayed her
exultation in a manner better suited to a jealous wife than to an
indignant sovereign; and who, when she became apprised of the
reconciliation of the King with his wily mistress, expressed herself
with so much warmth upon his wilful blindness, that a fortnight elapsed
before they met again.

Nothing could be more ill-judged upon the part of Marie than this
violence, as by estranging the King from herself she gave ample
opportunity to the Marquise to resume her empire over his mind. It
nevertheless appears certain that although he resented the sarcasms of
the Queen, he was less the dupe of Madame de Verneuil than those about
him imagined; he was fascinated, but not convinced; and it is probable
that had Marie de Medicis at this moment sufficiently controlled her
feelings to remain neuter, she might, for a time at least, have retained
her truant husband under the spell of her own attractions. Such,
however, was not the case; and between his suspicion of being deceived
by his mistress, and his irritation at being openly taunted by his wife,
the King, who shrank with morbid terror from domestic discomfort,
instead of finding repose in the privacy of his own hearth, even while
he was anxious to shake off the trammels by which he had been so long
fettered, and to abandon a _liaison_ which had ceased to inspire him
with confidence, only sought to escape by transferring his somewhat
exhausted affections to a new object. The struggle was, however, a
formidable one; for although the Marquise had forfeited his good
opinion, she had not lost her powers of fascination; and she so well
knew how to use them, that, despite his better reason, the sensual
monarch still remained her slave.

Thus his life became at this period one of perpetual worry and
annoyance. Marie, irritated by what she justly considered as a culpable
weakness and want of dignity on the part of her royal consort, persisted
in exhibiting her resentment, and in loading the favourite with every
mark of contempt and obloquy; while Madame de Verneuil, in her turn,
renewed her assertions of the illegality of the Queen's marriage, and
the consequent illegitimacy of the Dauphin. The effect of such a feud
may be readily imagined: the Court soon became divided into two distinct
factions; and those among the great ladies and nobles who frequented the
circle of the Marquise were forbidden the entrance of the Queen's
apartments. One intrigue succeeded another; and while Marie, with
jealous vindictiveness, endeavoured to mar the fortunes of those who
attached themselves to the party of Madame de Verneuil, the Marquise
left no effort untried to injure the partisans of the Queen. This last
rupture was an irrevocable one.[166]

In vain did Sully endeavour to restore peace. He could control the
finances, and regulate the defences of a great nation; but he was as
powerless as the King himself when he sought to fuse such jarring
elements as these in the social crucible; and while he was still
striving against hope to weaken, even if he could not wholly destroy, an
animosity which endangered the dignity of the crown, and the respect due
to one of the most powerful monarchs of Christendom, that monarch
himself, wearied of a strife which he had not the moral courage either
to terminate or to sustain, sought consolation for his trials in the
smiles of Mademoiselle de Sourdis,[167] whose favour he purchased by
giving her in marriage to the Comte d'Estanges. This caprice, engendered
rather by _ennui_ than affection, was, however, soon terminated, as the
new favourite could not, either personally or mentally, sustain a
comparison with Madame de Verneuil; and great coldness still existed
between the royal couple when the Court removed to Blois.

During the sojourn of their Majesties in that city, a misunderstanding
infinitely more serious than any by which it had been preceded took
place between them; and at length became so threatening, that although
the night was far advanced, the King despatched D'Armagnac, his first
valet-de-chambre, to desire the immediate presence of M. de Sully at the
castle. Singularly enough, the Duke in his Memoirs affects a morbid
reluctance even to allude to this outbreak, and professes his
determination, in accordance with his promise to that effect made to
both parties, not to reveal the subject of dispute; while at the same
time he admits that, after a long interview with Henry, he spent the
remainder of the night in passing from one chamber to the other,
endeavouring to restore harmony between the royal pair, during which
attempt many of the attendants of the Court were enabled at intervals to
hear all parties mention the names of the Grand Duke and Duchess of
Florence, the Duchess of Mantua, Virgilio Ursino, Don Juan de Medicis,
the Duc de Bellegarde, Joannini, Concini, Leonora, Trainel, Vinti,
Caterina Selvaggio,[168] Gondy, and more frequently still, of Madame de
Verneuil;[169] a circumstance which was quite sufficient to dispel all
mystery, as it at once became evident to those who mentally combined
these significant names, that the royal quarrel was a recriminatory one,
and that while the Queen was indulging in invectives against the
Marquise, and her champion M. le Grand, the King retorted by reproaching
her with the insolence of her Italian favourites, and her own weak
submission to their thrall.[170]

Capefigue, in his history, has shown less desire than Sully to envelop
this royal quarrel in mystery; and plainly asserts, although without
quoting his authority for such a declaration, that after mutual
reproaches had passed between Henry and his wife, the Queen became so
enraged that she sprang out of bed, and throwing herself upon the
monarch, severely scratched him in the face; a violence which he
immediately repaid with interest, and which induced him to summon the
minister to the palace, whose first care was to prevail upon the King to
retire to another apartment.[171]

Marie, exasperated by the persevering infidelity of her husband,
considered herself, with some reason, as the aggrieved party: she had
given a Dauphin to France; her fair fame was untainted; and she
persisted in enforcing her right to retain and protect her Tuscan
attendants. Henry, on his part, was equally unyielding; and it was, as
we have already shown, several hours before the bewildered minister of
finance could succeed in restoring even a semblance of peace. To every
argument which he advanced the Queen replied by enumerating the
libertine adventures of her husband (with the whole of which she proved
herself to be unhappily only too familiar), and by declaring that she
would one day take ample vengeance on his mistresses; strong in the
conviction that to whatever acts of violence she might be induced by the
insults heaped upon her, no rightly thinking person would be found to
condemn so just a revenge.[172]

This declaration, let Sully modify it as he might, could but aggravate
the anger of the King; and accordingly, he replied by a threat of
banishing his wife to one of his distant palaces, and even of sending
her back to Florence, with the whole of her foreign attendants.

From this project, if he really ever seriously entertained it, Henry
was, however, at once dissuaded by his minister; who, less blinded by
passion than himself, instantly recognised its enormity when
proportioned to the offence which it was intended to punish; and
consequently he did not hesitate to represent the odium which so unjust
a measure must call down upon the head of the King.[173] The Queen,
whose irritation had reached its climax, was less easily persuaded; or
the astute Concini, who was ever daring where his personal fortunes
might be benefited, sacrificed his royal mistress to his own interests;
for we find it recorded that some time subsequently, when Madame de
Verneuil was residing at her hotel in Paris, the Florentine favourite
privately informed the monarch that Marie had engaged some persons on
whom she could rely, to insult the Marquise; upon which Henry, after
expressing his thanks for the communication, caused the favourite to
leave the city under a strong escort.[174]

Had the King been less unscrupulously inconstant, there is, however, no
doubt that Marie de Medicis, from the strict propriety of her conduct to
the last, and under every provocation, would ultimately have become an
attached and devoted wife. Her ambition was satisfied, and her heart
interested, in her maternal duties; but the open and unblushing
licentiousness with which Henry pursued his numerous and frequently
ignoble intrigues, irritated her naturally excitable temper, and
consequently tended to throw her more completely into the power of the
ambitious Italians by whom she was surrounded; among whom the most
influential was Madame de Concini, a woman of firm mind, engaging
manners, and strong national prejudices, who, in following the fortunes
of her illustrious foster-sister, had deceived herself into the belief
that they would be almost without a cloud; and it is therefore probable
that a disappointment in this expectation, which, moreover, involved her
own personal interests, rendered her bitter in her judgment of the
_debonnaire_ and reckless monarch who showed himself so indifferent to
the attractions of her idolized mistress.

The subsequent ingratitude of Marie, indeed, only tends to increase the
admiration of a dispassionate critic for the ill-requited Leonora; to
whom it would appear, after a close analysis of her character, that
ample justice has never yet been done; for ambitious as she was, it is
certain that this unfortunate woman ever sought the welfare of the
Queen, to whom she owed her advancement in life, even when the more
short-sighted selfishness of her husband would have induced him to
sacrifice all other considerations to his own insatiable thirst
for power.

Unfortunately, however, the very excess of her affection rendered her a
dangerous adviser to the indignant and neglected Princess, from whose
private circle Henry at this period almost wholly absented himself.

Nor were these domestic anxieties the only ones against which the French
King had to contend at this particular crisis; for while the Court
circle had been absorbed in banquets and festivals, the seeds of civil
war, sown by a few of the still discontented nobles, began to germinate;
and Henry constantly received intelligence of seditious movements in the
provinces. On the banks of the Loire and the Garonne the symptoms of
disaffection had already ceased to be problematical; while at La
Rochelle and Limoges the inhabitants had assaulted the government
officers who sought to levy an obnoxious tax.

Little doubt existed in the minds of the monarch and his ministers that
these hostile demonstrations were encouraged, if not suggested, by the
secret agents of Philip III of Spain, and the Duke of Savoy, who had
been busily engaged some time previously in dissuading the Swiss and
Grisons from renewing the alliance which they had formed with Henri III,
and which became void at his death. This attempt was, however,
frustrated by an offer made to them by Sillery of a million in gold, as
payment of the debt still due to them from the French government for
their past services; which enormous sum reached them through the hands
of the Duc de Biron, to whom, as well as to the memory of his father,
the old Marechal, many of the Switzers were strongly and
personally attached.

Day by day, also, the King had still more serious cause of apprehension,
having ascertained almost beyond a doubt that the Duc de Bouillon, the
head of the Huguenot party, who were incensed against Henry for having
deserted their faith, was secretly engaged in a treaty with Spain,
Savoy, and England, a circumstance rendered doubly dangerous from the
fact that the Protestants still held several fortified places in
Guienne, Languedoc, and other provinces, which would necessarily, should
the negotiation prove successful, be delivered into his hands. There
can be no doubt, moreover, that the monarch keenly felt the ingratitude
of this noble, whom he had himself raised to the independent sovereignty
of the duchy whence he derived his title; but his mortification was
increased upon ascertaining that the Marechal de Biron, who had been one
of his most familiar friends, and in whose good-faith and loyalty he had
ever placed implicit trust, was also numbered among his enemies, and
endeavouring to secure his own personal advancement by betraying
his master.

No two men could probably have been selected throughout the whole nation
more fitted to endanger the stability of the royal authority. Both were
marshals of France, and alike celebrated for their talent as military
leaders, as well as for their insatiable ambition. Of the two, perhaps,
however, the Due de Bouillon was likely to prove the most formidable
enemy to the sovereign; from the fact of his being by far the more able
and the more subtle politician, and, moreover, gifted with a caution and
judgment which were entirely wanting in the impetuous and
reckless Biron.

Bouillon, who possessed great influence in the counsels of the
Huguenots, was supported by the Due de la Tremouille,[175] his
co-religionist, another leader of the reformed party; and secretly also
by the Duc d'Epernon,[176] whose fortunes having greatly deteriorated
since the death of Henri III, considered himself harshly treated, and
was ready to join every cabal which was formed against that King's
successor, although he always avoided any open demonstration of
hostility which might tend to compromise his personal safety.

A third individual pointed out to the King as one of his most active
enemies was Charles de Valois, Comte d'Auvergne, the step-brother of
Madame de Verneuil; to whom not only in consideration of his royal
blood, but also as the relative of the Marquise, Henry had ever shown a
favour which he little merited. Such an adversary the monarch could,
however, afford to despise, for he well knew the Count to be more
dangerous as a friend than as an enemy; his cowardly dread of danger
constantly impelling him, at the merest prospect of peril, to betray
others in order to save himself; while his cunning, his gratuitous and
unmanly cruelty, and the unblushing perfidy which recalled with only too
much vividness the character of his father, Charles IX, rendered him at
once unsafe and unpleasant as an associate. Despite all these drawbacks,
Biron with his usual recklessness had nevertheless accepted him as a
partner in his meditated revolt, D'Auvergne having declared that he
would run all risks in order to revenge the dishonour brought upon his
family by the King; but in reality the Comte only sought to benefit
himself in a struggle where he had little to lose, and might, as he
believed, become a gainer.

The madness of the Duc de Biron in betraying the interests of a
sovereign who had constantly treated him with honour and distinction,
can only find its solution in his overweening vanity, as he was already
wealthy, powerful, and popular; and had, moreover, acquired the
reputation of being one of the first soldiers in France. He had been
appointed admiral, and subsequently marshal; and had even been entrusted
with the command of the King's armies at the siege of Amiens, where he
bore the title of marshal-general, although several Princes of the Blood
and the Connetable himself were present. He was decorated with all the
Royal Orders; was a duke and peer of the realm, and Governor of
Bordeaux; and, in fine, every attainable dignity had been lavished upon
him; while he yielded precedence only to royalty, and to the Duc de
Montmorency, to whose office it was vain to aspire during his

Such was the Marechal de Biron, when, in the vainglorious hope of one
day becoming the sovereign of certain of the French provinces, he
voluntarily trampled under foot every obligation of loyalty and
gratitude, and leagued himself with the enemies of his royal master, to
wrest from him the sceptre which he so firmly wielded. The first
intelligence of the Duke's defection which reached the monarch--to whom,
however, his conduct had long appeared problematical--was obtained
through the treachery of the Marechal's most trusted agent; a man whom
Biron had constantly employed in all his intrigues, and from whom he had
no secrets. This individual, who from certain circumstances saw reason
to believe that the plans of the Duke must ultimately fail from their
very immensity, and who feared for his own safety in the event of his
patron's disgrace, resolved to save himself by communicating the whole
conspiracy to the King; for which purpose he solicited an audience,
declaring that he had important matters to reveal, which involved not
only the throne of the sovereign, but even his life; and he so
confidently insisted upon this fact, that an interview was at length
accorded to him at Fontainebleau; where, in the presence of Henry and
the Duc de Sully, he confessed that conceiving himself to have been
ill-used by the Court, he had from mortified vanity adopted the
interests of M. de Biron, and even participated in the conspiracy of
which he was now anxious to anticipate the effects, and from which he
had instantly retired when he discovered that it involved the lives of
his Majesty and the Dauphin.

He then solemnly asserted that when the Marechal de Biron proceeded to
Flanders to receive the oath of peace from the Archduke Albert, the
Spaniards, who at once detected the extent of his vanity and ambition,
had flattered his weakness and encouraged his hopes; and that they had
ultimately despatched to him an individual named Picote, who for some
crime had been exiled from Orleans, and who was authorized to give him
the assurance that it only depended upon the Duke himself to secure a
brilliant position through their agency, should he see fit to become
their ally. The Marechal, his associate went on to say, listened eagerly
to the proposition, and expressed his willingness to treat with Spain
whenever it might be deemed expedient to confide to him the real meaning
of the message; a reply which satisfied the Spaniards that with proper
caution they should find it no difficult undertaking to attach him
entirely to their interests, or, failing in this attempt, to rid
themselves of a dangerous adversary by rendering him the victim of his
own treason.

Elated by the brilliant prospect which thus opened upon him, Biron
gradually became less energetic in the service of his legitimate master;
and after the peace of Vervins, finding his influence necessarily
diminished, he began to murmur, affecting to believe that the services
which he had rendered to the sovereign had not been duly recognized; and
it was at this period, according to his betrayer, that their
acquaintance had commenced, an acquaintance which so rapidly ripened
into friendship that ere long he became the depository of his patron's
most cherished secrets.

After many and anxious consultations, principally caused by the
uncertainty of the Duke as to the nature of the honours which were to be
conferred upon him, it had been at length resolved between the two
conspirators that they should despatch a priest to the Duke of Savoy, a
monk of Citeaux to Milan, and Picote himself to Spain, to treat with the
several Princes in the name of the Marechal; and what was even more
essential to the monarch to ascertain, was the fact that a short time
subsequently, and before he visited Paris, the Duke of Savoy had entered
into a secret negotiation with Biron, and even led him to believe that
he would bestow upon him the hand of one of his daughters, by which
marriage the Marechal would have become the cousin of the Emperor of
Germany, and the nephew of the King of Spain, an alliance which, to so
ambitious a spirit, opened up an opportunity of self-aggrandizement
never to be realized in his own country and under his own sovereign.

In return for this concession, Biron had pledged himself to his wily
ally that he would provide so much occupation for Henry in the interior
of his kingdom, that he should have no leisure to attempt the invasion
of the marquisate of Saluzzo, a pledge which more than any other
gratified M. de Savoie, who lived in constant dread of being driven from
his territories. During the war the Marechal nevertheless took several
of the Duke's fortresses in Brescia; but a perfect understanding had
been established between them which rendered this circumstance
comparatively unimportant; and on the refusal of Henry to permit the
appointment of a governor of his own selection for the citadel of Bourg,
Biron became so incensed by what he designated as the ingratitude of his
sovereign--though he was fully aware that by countenancing such an
arrangement the King must necessarily leave the fortress entirely in his
power--that he no longer restrained himself, but declared that the death
of the French sovereign was essential to the accomplishment of his
projects; and meanwhile he gave the Duke of Savoy, whom he thenceforward
regarded as his firmest friend, constant information of the state and
movements of the hostile army.

A short time afterwards it was definitely arranged between the
conspirators that the Duke of Savoy should give his third daughter in
marriage to the Marechal, with a dowry of five hundred thousand golden
crowns; that the Spanish monarch should cede to him all his claims of
sovereignty upon the duchy of Burgundy; and that the Conde de
Fuentes[178] and the Duke of Savoy should march their combined forces
into France, thus disabling Henry from pursuing his design of
reconquering the long-coveted duchy.

This treasonable design, owing to circumstances upon which the impetuous
Biron had failed to calculate, proved, however, abortive; and he had no
sooner convinced himself of the fact, and comprehended the perilous
position in which he had been placed by his imprudence, than he hastened
to Lyons, where the King was then sojourning; and having obtained an
audience, he confessed with a seeming frankness irresistible to so
generous and unsuspicious a nature as that of Henry, that he had been
sufficiently misled by his ambition secretly to demand from the Duke of
Savoy the hand of his younger daughter; and that, moreover, in the
excess of his mortification at the refusal of his Majesty to appoint a
governor of his own selection at Bourg, he had even been induced to plot
against the state, for both which crimes he humbly solicited the
royal pardon.

Full well did Henry and his minister remember this occurrence; nor could
the King forget that although he had urged the Marechal to reveal to him
the whole extent of the intrigue, he had dexterously evaded his most
searching inquiries, and constantly recurred to his contrition. Henry
owed much to Biron, whom he had long loved; and with a magnanimity
worthy of his noble nature, after a few expostulations and reproaches,
he not only pardoned him for what he believed to have been a mere
temporary abandonment of his duties, but even assured him of his future
favour, and bade him return in all security to his post.

Unhappily, however, the demon of ambition by which the Duke was
possessed proved too powerful for the generous clemency of the King, and
he resumed his treasonable practices; but a misunderstanding having
ensued between himself and the false friend by whom he was now betrayed,
all the private documents which had been exchanged between himself and
the foreign princes through whose aid he trusted to obtain the honours
of sovereignty, were communicated on this occasion to the monarch whose
dignity and whose confidence he had alike outraged.

A free pardon was accorded to the traitor through whose means Henry was
made acquainted with the extent of the intrigue, on condition that he
should reside within the precincts of the Court and lend his assistance
to convict the Duke of his crime, terms to which the perfidious
confidant readily consented; while with a tact worthy of his falsehood,
he soon succeeded in reinstating himself in the good graces of the Duke,
by professing to be earnestly engaged in France in furthering his
interests, and by giving him reason to believe that he was still devoted
to his cause.

To this deception, and to his own obstinacy, Biron owed his fate.[179]

The alarming facts which had thus been revealed to them were
communicated by Henry and his minister to certain members of the privy
council, by whom a report was drawn up and placed in the hands of the
Chancellor; and, this preliminary arrangement completed, it was
determined to recall the Marechal to Court either to justify himself, or
to undergo the penalty of his treason. In order to effect this object,
however, it was necessary to exercise the greatest caution, as Biron was
then in Burgundy; and his alarm having already been excited by the
evasion of his most confidential agent, they felt that he might, should
his suspicions be increased, place himself at the head of the troops
under his command, by whom he was idolized, and thus become doubly
dangerous. It was, consequently, only by a subterfuge that there was any
prospect of inducing him to approach the capital; and the King, by the
advice of Sully, and not without a latent hope that he might be enabled
to clear himself of blame, openly asserted that he put no faith in the
disclosures which had been made to him, and that he would advise the
Marechal to be careful of those about him, whose envy or enmity led them
to put a misconstruction upon his motives as well as upon his actions.
The Baron de Luz,[180] the confidential friend of Biron, for whose ear
these declarations were especially designed, did not fail to communicate
them on the instant to the accused party; while La Fin,[181] by whom he
had been betrayed, likewise wrote to assure him that in revealing the
conspiracy to the King and the ministers he had been cautious not to
utter a word by which he could be personally implicated. It is certain,
however, that the Duke placed little reliance either upon the assertions
of Henry, or the assurances of his treacherous agent; as on the receipt
of a letter from the sovereign, announcing his own instant departure for
Poitou, where he invited Biron to join him, in order that he might
afford him his advice upon certain affairs of moment, the latter wrote
to excuse himself, alleging, as a pretext for his disobedience to the
royal command, the rumour of a reported aggression of the Spaniards, and
the necessity of his presence at a meeting of the States of Burgundy
which had been convoked for the 22d of May, where it would be essential
that he should watch over the interests of his Majesty.[182]

The King did not further insist at that moment; but having ascertained
on his return from Poitou that fresh movements had been made in
Burgundy, in Saintonge, in Perigord, and in Guienne, which threatened to
prove inimical to his authority, and that couriers were constantly
passing from one of these provinces to the other, he sent to desire the
presence of the Sieur Descures,[183] an intimate friend and follower of
the Marechal, whom he commanded to proceed with all speed to Burgundy,
and to inform his lord that if he did not forthwith obey the royal
summons, the sovereign would go in person to bring him thence. This
threat was sufficiently appalling; and the rather as Sully, by his
authority as grand-master of artillery, had taken the precaution, on
pretext of recasting the cannon and improving the quality of the powder
in the principal cities of Burgundy, to cripple Biron's resources, and
to render it impossible for him to attempt any rational resistance to
the royal will. The Marechal soon perceived that he had been duped, but,
nevertheless, he would not yield; and Descures left him, firm in his
determination not to trust himself within the precincts of the Court.

The King, who, from his old attachment to Biron, had hitherto hoped that
he had been calumniated, and that, in lieu of crimes, he had only been
guilty of follies, offended by so resolute an opposition to his will,
began, like his ministers, to apprehend that he must in truth
thenceforward number the Duke among his enemies; and he consequently
suffered himself, shortly after the return of his last messenger, to be
persuaded to despatch the President Jeannin[184] as the bearer of a
third summons to the Marechal, and to represent to him how greatly he
was increasing the displeasure of the sovereign by his disobedience, as
well as strengthening the suspicions which were already entertained
against him. Finally, the president was instructed to assure the haughty
and imperious rebel that the King had not forgotten the good service
which he had rendered to the nation; and that he ascribed the
accusations which had reached him rather to the exaggerations of those
who in making such reports sought to increase their own favour at Court
than to any breach of trust on the part of the Marechal himself.[185]

Somewhat reassured by these declarations, and unconscious of the extent
of La Fin's treachery, Biron allowed himself to be persuaded by the
eloquence of Jeannin, and reluctantly left Dijon for Fontainebleau,
where he arrived on the 13th of June. As he was about to dismount, La
Fin approached to welcome him; and while holding his stirrup whispered
in his ear: "Courage, my master; speak out boldly, for they know
nothing." The Duke silently nodded his reply, and at once proceeded to
the royal chamber, where Henry received him with a gay countenance and
open arms, declaring that he had done well to accept his invitation, or
he should assuredly have gone to fetch him in person as he had
threatened. Biron excused himself, but with a coldness extremely
displeasing to the King, who, however, forebore to exhibit any symptom
of annoyance; and after a short conversation in which no further
allusion was made to the position of the Marechal, Henry, as he had
often previously done, proposed to show him the progress of the new
buildings upon which he was then actively engaged; and, leading the way
to the gardens, he did in fact for a time point out to him every object
of interest. This done, he suddenly turned the discourse upon the
numerous reasons for displeasure which the recent acts of Biron had
given him (being careful, nevertheless, not to betray the extent of his
knowledge), and earnestly urged him to confess the real amount of the
imprudence of which he had been guilty, pledging his royal word, that
should he do so with frankness and sincerity, the avowal would ensure
his pardon.

But this the infatuated Duke had no intention of conceding. The
whispered assurance of La Fin still vibrated on his ear, and he also
calculated largely on his intimacy with D'Auvergne, which secured to him
the influence of Madame de Verneuil. He consequently replied, with an
arrogance as unbecoming as it was misplaced, that he had not come to
Court to justify himself, but in order to ascertain who were his
accusers; and, moreover, added that, having committed no crime, he did
not require any pardon; nor could either Henry himself or the Duc de
Sully, with whom he had subsequently a lengthened interview, succeed in
inducing him to make the slightest confession.

The noonday repast was no sooner over than the King sent to summon the
Marechal to his closet, where he once more exerted every effort to
soften the obduracy of the man to whose valour he was well aware that
he had been greatly indebted for his crown, and whom he was consequently
anxious to save from dishonour and ignominy; but, unfortunately for his
own interests, Biron retained as vivid a recollection of the fact as
Henry himself; and he so highly estimated the value of his services,
that he resolved to maintain the haughty position which he had assumed,
and to persist in a denial that was fated to cost him his life. Instead,
therefore, of throwing himself upon the clemency of the King by an
undisguised avowal of his treason, he merely replied to the appeal by
again demanding to know who were his accusers; upon which Henry rose
from his seat, and exclaiming: "Come, we will play a match at tennis,"
hastily left the room, followed by the culprit.

The King having selected the Comte de Soissons[186] as his second
against the Duc d'Epernon and the Marechal, this ill-assorted party
continued for some time apparently absorbed in the game; and so
thoroughly did it recall past scenes and times to the mind of the
monarch, that he resolved, before he abandoned his once faithful subject
to his fate, to make one last endeavour to overcome his obstinacy. He
accordingly authorized M. de Soissons to exert whatever influence he
possessed with the rash man who was so blindly working out his own ruin,
and to represent to him the madness of persisting in a line of conduct
which could not fail to provoke the wrath of his royal master.

"Remember, Monsieur," said the Prince, who was as anxious as the monarch
himself that the scandal of a public trial, and the certainty of an
ignominious death, should be spared to so brave a soldier--"remember
that a sovereign's anger is the messenger of destruction." [187]

Biron, however, persisted in declaring that he had no reason to fear the
displeasure of Henry, and had consequently no confession to make; and
with this fatal answer the Count was fain to content himself.

The King rose early on the following morning, full of anxiety and
apprehension. He could not look back upon the many gallant acts of the
unfortunate Marechal without feeling a bitter pang at the idea that an
old and formerly zealous servant was about to become a victim to
expediency, for the spirit of revolt, which he had hitherto endeavoured
to suppress by clemency, had now risen hydra-headed, threatening to
dispute his right of reprisal, and to involve the nation once more in
civil war. He painfully felt, that under circumstances like these,
lenity would become, not only a weakness, but a crime, and possessing,
as he did, the most indubitable proofs of Biron's guilt, he saw himself
compelled to forget the friend in the sovereign, and to deliver up the
attainted noble to the justice of his betrayed country.

A privy council was consequently assembled, at which Henry declared his
determination to arrest the Duke, and to put him upon his trial, if,
after mature deliberation, it was decided that he deserved death, as
otherwise he was resolved not to injure his reputation by any
accusations which might tarnish his renown or embitter his existence. To
this last indication of relenting he received in reply an assurance that
no further deliberation was requisite, as the treason of the Marechal
was so fully proved, and the facts so amply authenticated, that he would
be condemned to the axe by every tribunal in the world.

On finding that his councillors were unanimous in this opinion, the King
summoned MM. de Vitry[188] and de Praslin,[189] and gave them orders to
arrest both the Duc de Biron and the Comte d'Auvergne, desiring them at
the same time to act with the greatest caution, and carefully to avoid
all noise and disorder.

When their Majesties had supped they retired to the private apartments,
where, among other courtiers, they were joined by the two conspirators,
both of whom were peculiarly obnoxious to the Queen--D'Auvergne from his
general character, as well as his relationship to Madame de Verneuil,
and Biron from his intimacy with the brother of the favourite, who had
renewed her pretended claim to the hand of Henry, a subject which always
tortured the heart of Marie, involving, as it did, the legitimacy of her
son, and her own honour. It was not, therefore, without a great exertion
of self-command that she replied to the ceremonious compliments of the
Duke by courtesies equally lip-deep, and, at the express desire of the
King, was induced to accept him as her companion at the card-table.
During the progress of the game, a Burgundian nobleman named Merge
approached the Marechal and murmured in a low voice, as he affected to
examine his cards, that he was about to be arrested, but Biron being at
that moment deeply absorbed in his occupation, did not hear or heed the
warning, and he continued to play on in the greatest security until
D'Auvergne, to whom Merge had communicated the ill-success of his own
attempt, in his turn drew near the royal table, and whispered as he
bowed profoundly to the Queen, by which means he brought his lips to a
level with the Duke's ear: "We are not safe here."

Biron did not for an instant lose his presence of mind; but without the
movement of a muscle again gathered up his cards, and pursued his game,
which was only terminated at midnight by an intimation from the King
that it was time for her Majesty to retire. Henry then withdrew in his
turn; but before he left the room he turned towards the Marechal and
said with marked emphasis: "Adieu, _Baron de Biron_, you know what I
have told you." [190]

As the Duke, considerably startled by this extraordinary address, was
about to leave the antechamber, Vitry seized his right arm with one
hand, and with the other laid a firm grasp upon his sword, exclaiming:
"Monsieur, the King has confided the care of your person to me. Deliver
up your sword." A few of the gentlemen of the Duke's household who were
awaiting him made a show of resistance, but they were instantly seized
by the guard; upon which the Marechal demanded an interview with
the monarch.

"His Majesty has retired," replied Vitry. "Give me your sword."

"Ha! my sword," said Biron with a deep sigh of indignant mortification,
"that sword which has rendered him so much good service;" and without
further comment or expostulation he placed the weapon in the hands of
the captain of the guard, and followed him to the chamber in which he
was to pass the night.

The Comte d'Auvergne had meanwhile also been arrested at the gate of the
palace by M. de Praslin, and conducted to another apartment.

The criminals were no sooner secured than the King despatched a
messenger to Sully to inform him of the fact, and to desire his
immediate attendance at the palace; and on his arrival, after narrating
to him the mode of their capture, Henry desired him to mount his horse,
and to repair without delay to the Bastille, in order to prepare
apartments for them in that fortress. "I will forward them in boats to
the water-gate of the Arsenal," he pursued; "let them land there, but be
careful that they are seen by no one; and convey them thence to their
lodgings as quietly as possible across your own courts and gardens. So
soon as you have arranged everything for their landing, hasten to the
Parliament and to the Hotel-de-Ville; there explain all that has passed,
and say that on my arrival in the capital I will communicate my reasons
for what I have done, of which the justice will be at once
apparent." [191]

This arrangement was made upon the instant, and on the morrow the
prisoners were embarked in separate boats upon the Seine, under a strong
escort of the King's bodyguard; and on their arrival at the Bastille
they were delivered into the express keeping of the Duc de Sully; while
upon his subsequent entrance into Paris on the afternoon of the same
day, Henry was received with acclamation by the citizens, who were aware
of the fruitless efforts made by the monarch to induce the Marechal to
return to his allegiance, and whose joy was of the most enthusiastic
description at the escape of their beloved sovereign from a foul
conspiracy.[192] The Marechal de Biron, like all men who have attained
to a high station, and whose ambition prompts them to conciliate the
goodwill of those by whom they are approached, possessed many friends;
but the accusation of _lese-majeste_ under which he laboured was one of
so formidable a nature that they remained totally passive; and it was
only his near relatives who ventured to peril their own favour by making
an appeal in his behalf. Their supplications, earnest and humble though
they were, failed, however, to shake the resolution of Henry, whose
pride had, in this instance, been doubly wounded alike as a monarch and
as a man. He felt that not only had the King of France to deal with a
rebel, but that the confiding friend, who had been ready upon the
slightest appearance of regret or repentance once more to forgive, had
been treated with distrust and recompensed by falsehood.

While those closely connected with him were endeavouring, by every means
in their power, to appease the just indignation of the sovereign, and to
intercede in his behalf, Biron himself, as though his past services must
necessarily suffice to secure his impunity, was indulging, even within
the formidable walls of the Bastille, in the grossest and most
ill-judged vituperations against the King; and boasting of his own
exploits, rather like a maniac than a brave and gallant soldier who had
led armies into the field, and there done his duty unflinchingly.[193]
He partook sparingly of the food which was presented to him; and instead
of taking rest, spent the greater portion of the night in pacing to and
fro the narrow apartment. It was evident that he had firm faith either
in the royal pardon, or in the means of escape being provided for him by
his friends; but as day by day went by, and he received no intelligence
from without, while he remarked that every individual who entered his
chamber was fully armed, and that the knives upon his table were not
pointed, in order that he should be unable to convert them into
defensive weapons, he became somewhat less violent; and he no sooner
ascertained that Henry had refused to comply with the petition of his
family than he said, with a bitter laugh: "Ha! I see that they wish me
to take the road to the scaffold." Thenceforward he ceased to demand
justice on his accusers, became less imperious, and even admitted that
he had no rational hope save in the mercy of the monarch.[194]

On the 27th of July, the preliminary arrangements having been completed,
the Marechal was conducted to the Palais de Justice by the Sieur de
Montigny,[195] the Governor of Paris, in a covered barge escorted by
twelve or fifteen armed men. Previously, however, to his being put upon
his trial, he was privately interrogated by the commissioners chosen for
that purpose; but this last judicial effort to save him only tended to
secure his ruin. When confronted with his judges, Biron appeared to have
lost all consistency of character; the soldier was sunk in the sophist;
he argued vaguely and inconsistently; and compromised his own cause by
the very clumsiness of the efforts which he made to clear himself.
Unaware of the revelations of La Fin, when he was confronted with him he
declared him to be a man of honour, his relative, and his very good
friend; but the depositions of the Burgundian noble were no sooner made
known to him than he retracted his former assertion, branding him as a
sorcerer, a traitor, an assassin, and the vilest of men, with other
epithets too coarse for repetition.[196] These terrible accusations,
however, came too late to serve his cause; he had already committed
himself by his previous panegyric; and, perceiving that such was the
case, he hastened to support his testimony against his former accomplice
by asserting that were Renaze alive and in France, he should be able to
prove the truth of what he advanced, and to justify himself.
Unfortunately for the success of this assurance, Renaze in his turn made
his appearance in court; having, by a strange chance, recently escaped
from Savoy, where the Duke had held him a prisoner; and Biron had the
mortification of finding that this, another of his ancient allies, had
not been more faithful to him in his adversity than La Fin. These two
witnesses, indeed, decided his fate; as the letters which were produced
against him were proved to have been written before the previous pardon
granted to him by Henry at Lyons, and they were consequently of no avail
as regarded the present accusation.

The Parliament was presided over by Messire Pomponne de Bellievre,
Chancellor of France, beside whom the Marechal was requested to take his
place upon a low wooden stool. Matthieu asserts that, although neither
duke nor peer had obeyed the summons of the Chambers, the number of
Biron's judges nevertheless amounted to one hundred and twelve;[197]
and it is probable that this very fact gave him confidence, as during
the two long hours occupied by his trial he never once lost his
self-possession, but argued as closely and as sagaciously as though he
had yielded to no previous intemperance of language. He urged the pardon
previously accorded to him by the King; earnestly protested that he had
never entered into any cabal against the throne or dignity of his
sovereign; and denied that any man could be proved a traitor, whatever
might be his wishes, so long as he made no effort to realize them. He
admitted that he might have talked rashly, but appealed to his judges
whether he had not proved himself equally reckless in the field; and
required them to declare if so venial a fault had not, by that fact,
already been sufficiently expiated. He then recapitulated the events of
his career as a military leader; but he did so temperately and modestly,
without a trace of the arrogant bombast for which he had throughout his
life been celebrated. So great was the effect of this unexpected and
manly dignity, that many members of the court were seen to shed tears;
and had his fate been decided upon the instant, it is probable that his
calm and touching eloquence might have saved his life; but so much time
had already been exhausted that enough did not remain for collecting the
votes, and the result of the trial was consequently deferred; the
Marechal meanwhile returning to the Bastille under the same escort
which had conveyed him to the capital.[198]

On the 29th, the Chambers having again assembled, they remained in
deliberation from six o'clock in the morning until two hours after
mid-day, when sentence of death was unanimously pronounced against the
prisoner; and he was condemned to lose his head in the Place de Greve,
"as attainted and convicted of having outraged the person of the King,
and conspired against his kingdom; all his property to be confiscated,
his peerage reunited to the Crown; and himself shorn of all his honours
and dignities."

On the following day, the decision of the Parliament having been made
public, immense crowds collected in the Place de Greve in order to
witness the execution; scaffoldings were erected on every side for the
accommodation of the spectators; and the tumult at length became so
great that it reached the ears of the Marechal in his prison-chamber.
Rushing to the window, whence he could command a view of some portion of
the open fields leading to the Rue St. Antoine, along which numerous
groups were still making their eager way, he exclaimed, in violent
emotion: "I have been judged, and I am a dead man." One of his guards
hastened to assure him that the outcry was occasioned by a quarrel
between two nobles, which was about to terminate in a duel; and the
unhappy prisoner thus remained for a short time in uncertainty as to his
ultimate fate. Yet still, as he sat in his dreary prison, he heard the
continued murmur of the excited citizens, who, believing that he was to
be put to death by torchlight, persisted in holding their weary watch
until an hour before midnight.[199]

The King had, however, determined to postpone the execution until the
morrow; when, apparently yielding to the solicitations of the Duke's
family, but, as many surmised, anxious to avoid a tumult which the great
popularity of Biron with the troops, and the numerous friends and
followers whom he possessed about the Court, led him to apprehend might
prove the result of so public a disgrace to his surviving relatives,
Henry consented to change the place of execution to the court of the
Bastille, where the Marechal accordingly was beheaded at five o'clock in
the evening. The circumstances attending his decapitation are too
painful for detail; suffice it that his last struggles for life
displayed a cowardice which ill accorded with his previous gallantry,
and that it was only by a feint that the executioner at length succeeded
in performing his ghastly office; while so great had been the violence
of the victim, that his head bounded three times upon the scaffold, and
emitted more blood than the trunk from which it had been severed.

It was said that the father of the culprit, the former Marechal, had on
one occasion, during an exhibition of the violence in which Biron so
continually indulged, bitterly exclaimed: "I would advise you, Baron,
as soon as peace is signed, to go and plant cabbages on your estate, or
you will one day bring your head to the scaffold." [200] A fearful
prophecy fearfully fulfilled.

The corpse was conveyed to the church of St. Paul, where it was interred
without any ceremony, but surrounded by a dense mass of the populace,
many of whom openly pitied his fate, and lamented over his fall.[201]

La Fin and Renaze were pardoned; but Hubert, the secretary of the
Marechal, suffered "the question," both ordinary and extraordinary, and
was condemned to perpetual imprisonment, having refused to make any
confession. He was, however, a short time subsequently, restored to
liberty; but the remembrance of all that he had undergone rankled in his
heart, and he no sooner found himself once more free than he abandoned
his country, and withdrew to Spain, where he passed the remainder of
his life.

The Baron de Luz, who had revealed all he knew of the conspiracy on the
promise of a free pardon, was not only forgiven for the share which he
had taken in the plot, but had, moreover, all his appointments
confirmed; and was made governor of the castle of Dijon and the town of
Beaune. The governorship of Burgundy, vacant by the death of Biron, was
given to the Dauphin; and the lieutenancy of the province was conferred
upon the Duc de Bellegarde, by whom the young Prince was ultimately
succeeded in the higher dignity.

A Breton nobleman, named Montbarot,[202] was committed to the Bastille
on suspicion of being involved in the cabal; but no proof of his
participation having transpired, he was shortly afterwards liberated.

The Duc de Bouillon, who was conscious that he had not been altogether
guiltless of participation in the crime for which the less cautious
Biron had just suffered death, deeming it expedient to provide for his
own safety, took refuge in his viscounty of Turenne, where, however, he
did not long remain inactive; and reports of his continued disaffection
having reached the ears of the King, he was, in his turn, summoned to
the royal presence in order to justify himself; but the example of his
decapitated friend was still too recent to encourage him to such a
concession; and instead of presenting himself at Court he despatched
thither a very eloquent letter, in which he informed the monarch that,
being aware of the falsehood and artifice of his accusers, he entreated
him to dispense with his appearance in the capital; and to approve
instead, that, for the satisfaction of his Majesty, the French nation,
and his own honour, he should present himself before the Chamber of
Castres; that assembly forming an integral portion of the Parliament of
Toulouse, which held jurisdiction over his own viscounty of Turenne.
Having forwarded this missive to the sovereign, he hastened to Castres,
where he appeared as he had suggested, and caused his presence to be
registered. The determination of Henry to compel his attendance at Paris
was, however, only strengthened by this act of defiance; and having
ascertained that the King was about to despatch a messenger to compel
his obedience, M. de Bouillon left Castres in haste for Orange, whence
he proceeded, by way of Geneva, to Heidelberg, and placed himself under
the protection of the Prince Palatine, after having declared his
innocence to Elizabeth of England and the other Protestant sovereigns,
and entreated their support and mediation.

Thus far, with the exception of Biron himself, all the members of this
famous conspiracy had escaped with their lives, and some among them
without loss, either of freedom or of property; one of their number,
however, was fated to be less fortunate, and this one was the Baron de
Fontenelles,[203] a man of high family, who had for several years
rendered himself peculiarly obnoxious to the King and his ministers, and
whose atrocious barbarities caused him to fall unpitied. This wretched
man, after having been put to the torture, was, by the sentence
pronounced against him by the council, broken alive upon the wheel,
where he suffered the greatest agony during an hour and a half. His
lieutenant was condemned to the gallows for having been the medium of
his communication with the Spanish Government; although, even as he was
ascending the fatal ladder, he continued to declare that he had always
been ignorant of the contents of the packets which he was charged to
deliver, and could neither read nor write.[204]

With the life of Biron, the conspiracy had terminated; while his fate
had not failed to produce universal consternation. His devotion to the
early fortunes of the King had been at once so great and so efficient,
his military renown was so universally acknowledged, and his favour with
the monarch was so apparently beyond the reach of chance or change, that
his unhappy end pointed a moral even to the proudest, and so paralysed
the spirit of those who might otherwise have felt inclined to question
the royal authority, that even the nearest and dearest of his friends
uttered no murmur; while those individuals who had dreaded to find
themselves compromised by his ruin, and who, to their equal surprise and
satisfaction, discovered that, while he had unguardedly preserved all
the papers which could tend to his own destruction, he had destroyed
every vestige of their criminality, rejoiced at their escape, and
flattered themselves that their participation in his treachery would for
ever remain undiscovered; a circumstance which rendered them at once
patient and silent.

That the necessity for taking the life of the Marechal had been bitterly
felt by the King himself, we have already shown; and it was further
evinced when he declared to those who interceded for the doomed man,
that had his personal interests alone been threatened by the treason of
the criminal, he should have found it easy to pardon the wrong that had
been done him; but that, when he looked into the future, and remembered
that the safety of the kingdom which had been confided to him, and of
the son who was to succeed him upon the throne, must both be compromised
by sparing one who had already proved that his loyalty could not be
purchased by mercy, he held himself bound to secure both against an evil
for which there was no other safeguard than the infliction of the utmost
penalty of the law.

Many argued that, having spared the lives of the Ducs d'Epernon, de
Bouillon, and de Mayenne,[205] all of whom had at different times been
in arms against him, Henry might equally have shown mercy to Biron; but
while they urged this argument, they omitted to remember that the
political crime of these three nobles had not been aggravated, like that
of the Marechal, by private wrong; and that they had not, by an
unyielding obstinacy, and an ungrateful pertinacity in rebellion,
exhausted the forbearance of an indulgent monarch. Moreover, Biron, in
grasping at sovereignty, had not hesitated to invite the intrusion of
foreign and hostile troops into French territory, or to betray the
exigencies and difficulties of the army under his own command to his
dangerous allies; thus weakening for the moment, and imperilling for the
future, the resources of a frank and trusting master; two formidable
facts, which justified the severity alike of his King and of his judges.

The lesson was a salutary one for the French nobility, who had, from
long impunity, learnt to regard their personal relations with foreign
princes as matters beyond the authority of the sovereign, and which
could involve neither their safety nor their honour; for it taught them
that the highest head in the realm might fall under an accusation of
treason; and that, powerful as each might be in his own province or his
own government, he was still responsible to the monarch for the manner
in which he used that power, and answerable to the laws of his country
should he be rash enough to abuse it.

That Henry felt and understood that such must necessarily be the effect
produced by the fate of the Marechal there can be little doubt, as well
as that he was still further induced to impress so wholesome a
conviction upon the minds of his haughty aristocracy by the probability
of a minority, during which the disorders incident to so many
conflicting and imaginary claims could not fail to convulse the kingdom
and to endanger the stability of the throne; while it is no less evident
that, once having forced upon their reason a conviction of his own
ability to compel obedience where his authority was resisted, and to
assert his sovereign privilege where he felt it to be essential to the
preservation of the realm, he evinced no desire to extend his severity
beyond its just limits. Thus, as we have seen, with the exception of
the Baron de Fontenelles, who had drawn down upon himself the terrible
expiation of a cruel death, rather by a long succession of crime than by
his association in the conspiracy of Biron, all the other criminals
already judged had escaped the due punishment of their treason; while
the Comte d'Auvergne, after having been detained during a couple of
months in the Bastille, was restored to liberty at the intercession of
his sister, Madame de Verneuil, who pledged herself to the monarch that
he was guilty only in so far as he had been faithful to the trust
reposed in him by the Marechal, and had forborne to betray his secret,
while he had never actively participated in the conspiracy. She moreover
assured Henry, who was only anxious to find an opportunity of pardoning
the Count--an anxiety which the tears and supplications of the Marquise,
as well as his own respect for the blood of the Valois inherited by
D'Auvergne from his royal father, tended naturally to increase--that the
prisoner was prepared, since the death of Biron had freed him from all
further necessity for silence, to communicate to his Majesty every
particular of which he was cognizant. The concession was accepted; the
Count made the promised revelations; and his liberation was promptly
followed by a renewal of the King's favour.

Towards the close of the year, intelligence having reached Henry that
the Prince de Joinville, who was serving in the army of the Archduke,
had, in his turn, suffered himself to be seduced from his allegiance by
the Spaniards, he gave instant orders for his arrest; but the Prince no
sooner found himself a prisoner than he declared his readiness to
confess everything, provided he were permitted to do so to the King in
person and in the presence of Sully. His terms were complied with; and,
as both Henry and his minister had anticipated from the frivolous and
inconsequent character of their new captive, it at once became apparent
that no idea of treason had been blent with the follies of which he had
been guilty, but that they had merely owed their origin to his idle love
of notoriety. A correspondence with Spain had become, as we have shown,
the fashion at the French Court; and Joinville had accordingly, in order
to increase his importance, resolved to effect in his turn an
understanding with that country. During his audience of the King he so
thoroughly betrayed the utter puerility of his proceedings that the
monarch at once resolved to treat him as a silly and headstrong youth,
towards whom any extreme measure of severity would be alike unnecessary
and undignified; and he had consequently no sooner heard Joinville's
narration to an end than he desired the presence of his mother the
Duchesse de Guise and his brother the Duke,[206] and as they entered
the royal closet, somewhat startled by so sudden a summons, he said,
directing their attention to the delinquent: "There stands the prodigal
son in person; he has filled his head with follies; but I shall treat
him as a child and forgive him for your sakes, although only on
condition that you reprimand him seriously; and that you, my nephew,"
addressing himself particularly to the Duke, "become his guarantee for
the future. I place him in your charge, in order that you may teach him
wisdom if it be possible."

In obedience to this command M. de Guise, who was well aware with how
rash and intemperate a spirit he was called upon to contend, at once,
with the royal sanction, reconducted Joinville to his prison, where
during several months the young Prince exhausted himself in threats,
murmurs, and every species of verbal extravagance, until wearied by the
monotony of confinement he finally subsided into repentance, and was,
upon his earnest promise of amendment, permitted to exchange his chamber
in the Bastille for a less stringent captivity in the Chateau de
Dampierre.[207] Such was the lenient punishment of the last of the
conspirators; and it was assuredly a clever stroke of policy in the
monarch thus to cast a shade of ridicule over the close of the cabal,
which, having commenced with a tragedy, had by his contemptuous
forbearance almost terminated in an epigram.

The Court, after having passed a portion of the summer at St. Germain,
removed in the commencement of August to Fontainebleau, the advanced
pregnancy of the Queen having rendered her anxious to return to that
palace. But any gratification which she might have promised herself, in
this her favourite place of residence, was cruelly blighted by the
legitimation of the son of Madame de Verneuil, which was formally
registered at this period. Nor was this the only vexation to which she
was exposed, the notoriety of the King's intrigues becoming every day
more trying alike to her temper and to her health; while the new
concession which had been made to the vanity--or, as the Marquise
herself deemed it, to the honour--of the favourite, induced the latter
to commit the most indecent excesses, and to increase, if possible, the
almost regal magnificence of her attire and her establishment, at the
same time that her deportment towards the Queen was marked by an
insolent disrespect which involved the whole Court in perpetual

As it had already become only too evident that the unfortunate Marie de
Medicis possessed but little influence over the affections of her
husband, however he might be compelled to respect the perfect propriety
and dignity of her character, the cabal of the favourite daily increased
in importance; and the measure of the Queen's mortification overflowed,
when, soon after the royal visit to Fontainebleau, Henry took leave of
her in order to visit Calais, and she ascertained that he had on his way
stopped at the Chateau de Verneuil, whither he had been accompanied by
the Marquise. It was in vain that M. de Sully--to whom the King had
given strict charge to endeavour by every method in his power to
reconcile the Queen to his absence, and to provide for her amusement
every diversion of which she was in a condition to partake--exerted
himself to obey the command of the monarch; Marie was too deeply wounded
to derive any consolation from such puerile sources, nor was it until
the return of her royal consort, when his evident anxiety and increased
tenderness once more led her to believe that she might finally wean him
from his excesses and attach him to herself, that she once more
became calm.

On the 11th of November the anticipated event took place, and the Queen
gave birth to her eldest daughter[208] in the same oval chamber in which
the Dauphin first saw the light.[209] The advent of Elisabeth de France
was not, however, hailed with the same delight by Marie as had been
that of her first-born; on the contrary, her disappointment was extreme
on ascertaining the sex of the infant, from the fact of her having
placed the most entire confidence in the assurances of a devotee named
Soeur Ange, who had been recommended to her notice and protection by the
Sovereign-Pontiff, and who had, before she herself became cognizant of
the negotiations for her marriage, foretold that she would one day be
Queen of France. This woman, who still remained in her service, had
repeatedly assured her that she need be under no apprehension of bearing
daughters, as she was predestined by Heaven to become the mother of
three princes only; and after having, with her usual superstition,
placed implicit faith in the flattering prophecy, Marie no sooner
discovered its fallacy than she abandoned herself to the most violent
grief, refusing to listen to the consolations of her attendants, and
bewailing herself that she should have been so cruelly deceived, until
the King, although he in some measure participated in her annoyance,
succeeded in restoring her to composure by bidding her remember that had
she not been of the same sex as the child of which she had just made him
the father, she could not have herself realised the previous prediction
of Soeur Ange; an argument which, coupled with the probability that the
august infant beside her might in its turn ascend a European throne, was
in all likelihood the most efficacious one which could have been adopted
to reconcile her to its present comparative insignificance.


[158] Cesar de Vendome was the son of Henri IV and _la belle Gabrielle._
He became Governor of Brittany, and superintendent-in-chief of the
national navigation. Henry also bestowed on him as an appanage the duchy
of Vendome. He married the daughter of Philip Emmanuel of Lorraine, Duc
de Mercoeur, by whom he had three children: Isabelle, who became the
wife of Charles Amedee, Duc de Nemours; Louis, who died single; and
Francois, Duc de Beaufort.

[159] Jean de Berthault (or Bertaut) was born at Caen in 1552. He was
first-almoner of Catherine de Medicis, Abbot of Aulnai, and subsequently
Bishop of Seez. He was a pupil of Ronsard, and a friend of Desportes. He
wrote a great number of sacred and profane poems, psalms, and sonnets.
He also produced a "Funeral Oration on Henri IV," and a "Translation of
St. Ambroise." He died in 1611.

[160] _Amours du Grand Alcandre_, p. 41.

[161] _Amours du Grand Alcandre_, p. 42.

[162] Claude de Lorraine, Prince de Joinville, was the fourth son of
Henri, Duc de Guise, surnamed the _Balafre_, brother of Charles, Duc de
Mayenne, and of Louis, Cardinal de Guise. He married Marie de Rohan,
Duchesse de Chevreuse, the daughter of Hercule de Rohan, Duc de
Montbazon, and peer of France, and was subsequently known as Duc de
Chevreuse. He died in 1657.

[163] _Amours du Grand Alcandre_, pp. 272, 273.

[164] Dreux du Radier, vol. vi. p. 85. Saint-Edme, p. 218.

[165] _Amours du Grand Alcandre_, p. 274.

[166] _Amours du Grand Alcandre_, p. 276.

[167] Mademoiselle de Sourdis was the daughter of Francois d'Escoubleau,
Seigneur de Jouy, de Launay, Marquis de Sourdis, etc., and of Isabelle
Babou, Dame d'Alluie, daughter of Jean Babou, Seigneur de la
Bourdaisiere, and aunt of Gabrielle d'Estrees. He was deprived of the
government of Chartres by the League; but was restored by Henri III at
the entreaty of Gabrielle.

[168] Caterina Selvaggio was one of the Queen's favourite Italian

[169] Sully, _Mem_. vol. iv. pp. 93, 94.

[170] Rambure, _MS. Mem_. vol. i. p. 332.

[171] Capefigue, _Hist, de la Reforme, de la Ligue, et du Regne de Henri
IV_, vol. viii. pp. 147, 148.

[172] _Histoire de la Mere et du Fils_, a continuation of the _Memoirs
of Richelieu,_ incorrectly attributed to Mezeray, vol. i. p. 7.

[173] Sully, _Note to Memoirs_, vol. iv. pp. 95, 96.

[174] Richelieu, _La Mere et le Fils_, vol. i. p. 7.

[175] Claude, Seigneur de la Tremouille, second Duc de Thouars, peer of
France, Prince de Talmond, was born in the year 1566, and first bore
arms under Francois de Bourbon, Duc de Montpensier. He embraced the
reformed religion, and attached himself to the fortunes of Henri de
Navarre, subsequently King of France, whom he followed to the sieges of
Rouen and Poitiers, and the battle of Fontaine-Francaise; after which
the King conferred upon him the rank of peer of France. He was the
brother-in-law of the Duc de Bouillon. He died in the castle of Thouars,
to which he had retired, suspected of treason, after refusing to return
to Court to justify himself, on the 25th of October 1604, in his
thirty-eighth year.

[176] Jean Louis de Nogaret de la Valette, Due d'Epernon, was the
younger son of an old Gascon family, who sought his fortunes at the
French Court under the name of Caumont. After the death of Charles IX,
he offered his services to Henri de Navarre, subsequently Henri IV; but
was ultimately admitted to the intimacy of Henri III, who caused him to
be instructed in politics and literature, and made him one of his
_mignons_. He was next created Duc d'Epernon, first peer and admiral of
France, colonel-general of infantry, and held several governments. On
the death of Henri III, this ennobled adventurer once more became a
partisan of his successor, and commanded the royal forces during the war
in Savoy; but throughout the whole of this reign he lived in constant
misunderstanding with the Court and the King, and was even suspected of
the act of regicide which deprived France of her idolised monarch. It
was the Duc d'Epernon who, immediately after that event, convoked the
Parliament, caused the recognition of Marie de Medicis as Regent, and
formed a privy council over which he presided. Banished by the Concini
during their period of power, he reappeared at Court after their fall,
but Richelieu would not permit him to hold any government office, and,
moreover, deprived him of all his governments save that of Guienne. He
died in 1642.

[177] Daniel, vol. vii. p. 408.

[178] Pedro Henriques Azevedo, Conde de Fuentes.

[179] Montfaucon, vol. v. pp. 405-407.

[180] Edme de Malain, Baron de Luz, Lieutenant-Governor of Burgundy, was
the son of Joachim de Malain and Marguerite d'Epinac. He was deeply
involved in the conspiracy of the Marechal de Biron, and would
infallibly have perished with him had he not been induced by the
President Jeannin to reveal all that he knew of the plot to Henri IV, on
condition of a free pardon. He survived his treachery for ten years, and
in 1613 was killed in a duel by the Chevalier de Guise. His son, Claude
de Malain, having sworn to avenge his death, in his turn challenged M.
de Guise, at whose hands he met with the same fate as his father.

[181] Jacques de Lanode, Sieur de la Fin, was a petty Burgundian
nobleman, whose spirit of intrigue was perpetually involving those to
whom he attached himself in cabals and factions. He had been actively
engaged at one time in the affairs of the Duc d'Alencon, and at another,
he was no less busily engaged in instigating Henri III to aggressive
measures against the Duc de Guise. Since that period he had negotiated
with the ministers of Spain and Savoy, and by these means he had
contracted a great intimacy with the Duc de Biron, to whom he affected
to be distantly related, and over whom he acquired such extraordinary
ascendancy by his subtle and unceasing flattery that the weak Marechal
became a mere puppet in his hands, and, misled by his vanity, suffered
himself to be persuaded that his merit had been overlooked and his
services comparatively unrewarded, and that he was consequently fully
justified in aspiring even to regal honours, and in using every exertion
to attain them.

[182] Matthieu, _Histoire des Derniers Troubles arrivez en France_, book
ii. p. 411.

[183] Pierre Fougeuse, Sieur Descures.

[184] Pierre Jeannin was the architect of his own fortunes. He was born
at Autun in 1540, where his father followed the trade of a tanner, and
was universally respected alike for his probity and his sound judgment.
The future president, after receiving the rudiments of his education in
his native town, was removed to Bourges, where he became a pupil of the
celebrated Cujas. In 1569 he was entered as an advocate at the
Parliament of Burgundy, where he greatly distinguished himself during
the space of two years, at the expiration of which time he was appointed
provincial advocate and member of the Burgundian States; and in this
capacity he justified, by his extraordinary talents, the choice of his
fellow-citizens. On one occasion a wealthy individual, enchanted by his
eloquence, waited upon him at his house, and expressed a desire to have
him for a son-in-law, inquiring, however, at the same time, the amount
of his property. Jeannin, by no means disconcerted at the abruptness of
his visitor, pointed with a smile first to his head and then to his
books: "You see it before you," he said with honest pride; "I have not,
nor do I require, a greater fortune." Tradition is silent as regards the
termination of the interview. In the following year (1572) Jeannin was
present at the council which was held during the frightful massacre of
St. Bartholomew, where he secured the friendship of the Comte de Charny,
at that period Grand Equerry of France, Lieutenant-General of Burgundy,
and provisional governor of the province during the absence of the Duc
d'Aumale, then Governor of Paris; and in the same year he was deputed
from the _tiers-etat_ of Burgundy to the States-General, convoked at
Blois by Henri III. It was on that occasion that he began to comprehend
the designs of the Guises, and made the celebrated speech in favour of
religious toleration which does so much honour to his memory. By Henri
III he was successively appointed governor of the chancelry of Burgundy,
councillor of the provincial Parliament, and subsequently

[185] Daniel, vol. vii. pp. 414, 415. Perefixe, vol. ii. p. 367.
Matthieu, _Hist. des Derniers Troubles_, book ii. p. 411.

[186] Charles de Bourbon-Conti, Comte de Soissons, espoused the cause of
the King of Navarre, whom he accompanied to the battle of Coutras in
1587. Henry promised to him the hand of his sister, Catherine de
Navarre, to whom he presented him immediately afterwards, when a
reciprocal affection was the result. M. de Soissons, however, abandoned
the reform party, and did not return to it until after the death of
Henri III. He served actively and zealously during the League; but
having discovered that the King did not intend to fulfil his promise of
marrying him to the Princess, he quitted him during the siege of Rouen
in 1592, on the pretext of illness, and hastened to Bearn, hoping to
induce Catherine to become his wife before the King could interfere to
prevent their union, and by engaging himself to support his brother, the
Cardinal de Bourbon, to make himself master of the possessions of the
house of Navarre beyond the Loire. On reaching Bearn, however, he found
Henry already there, and was obliged to withdraw without having
accomplished either object. A short time subsequently he renewed his
friendship with that monarch, and officiated as Duke of Normandy at his
coronation at Chartres in 1594.

[187] Perefixe, vol. ii. p. 369.

[188] Louis de l'Hopital de Vitry, knight of all the Royal Orders, and

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