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

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Captain of the King's bodyguard, was descended from the illustrious and
ancient family of the Marquis de Sainte-Meme and de Montpellier, Comtes

[189] Charles de Choiseul, Marquis de Praslin, the representative of one
of the most illustrious families of France, was a descendant of the
ancient Comtes de Langres. He distinguished himself at the siege of La
Fere in 1580, at that of Paris in 1589, and at the battle of Aumale in
1592. Henri IV made him a captain of his bodyguard, and Louis XIII, in
1619, bestowed upon him the _baton_ of marshal of France. He died in
1626, in his sixty-third year.

[190] Mezeray asserts, and with greater probability, that Henry's
parting words were: "Since you will not speak out, adieu, Baron" (_Hist,
de France_, vol. x. p. 201); while Perefixe gives a third version,
asserting that the King took leave of him by saying: "Well then, the
truth must be learnt elsewhere; adieu, Baron de Biron" (_Hist, de Henri
le Grand_, vol. ii. p. 371).

[191] Sully, _Mem_. vol. iv. pp. 108, 109.

[192] Daniel, vol. vii. pp. 415-417. Matthieu, _Hist, des Derniers
Troubles,_ book ii. pp. 413-415. Mezeray, vol. x. pp. 196-202. Perefixe,
vol. ii. pp. 369-372.

[193] Mezeray, vol. x. p. 203.

[194] Matthieu, _Hist. des Troubles_, book ii. pp. 415, 416.

[195] Francois de la Grange d'Anquien, Seigneur de Montigny, Sery, etc.,
afterwards known as the Marechal de Montigny, served with the Catholics
at Coutras, where he was taken prisoner. In 1601 Henri IV made him
Governor of Paris; in 1609, lieutenant of the King in the Three
Bishoprics; and subsequently, in 1616, Marie de Medicis procured for him
the _baton_ of Marshal of France. He commanded the royal army against
the malcontents in Nivernais, and died in the same year (1617). He had
but one son, who left no male issue; but his brother had, among other
children, Henri, Marquis d'Anquien, whose daughter, Marie Casimire,
married Sobieski, King of Poland, and died in France, in 1716, two years
after her return to her native country.

[196] Mezeray, vol. x. p. 204.

[197] L'Etoile computes them at one hundred and twenty-seven.--_Journ.
de Henri IV_, vol. iii. p. 21.

[198] Mezeray, vol. x. p. 205.

[199] Matthieu, _Hist. des Troubles_, book ii. pp. 426, 427.

[200] Monttaucon, vol. v. p. 410.

[201] Perefixe, vol. ii. p. 377. Mezeray, vol. x. p. 209.

[202] Rene de Maree-Montbarot, Governor of Rennes in 1602. Wrongly
suspected of complicity with Biron, he made no effort to evade the
consequences of the accusation, but suffered himself to be arrested in
the seat of his government, whence he was conveyed to the Bastille; and
although he succeeded in establishing his innocence, he found himself,
on his liberation, deprived of his office.

[203] Guy Eder de Beaumanoir de Lavardin, Baron de Fontenelles, was a
Breton noble, who, according to De Thou, had been a celebrated Leaguer
and brigand. From the year 1597 he had held, in the name of the Duc de
Mercoeur, the fort of Douarnenez in Brittany, and the island of Tristain
in which it is situated. Since that period he had continually been
guilty of acts of piracy upon the English, and had even extended his
system of theft and murder indiscriminately both on sea and land. He
might, had he been willing so to do, have profited by the benefit of the
edict accorded to the Duc de Mercoeur in 1598, but he affected to hold
it as a point of honour to obtain a distinct one for himself, and he
even appears to have continued in the enjoyment of his government
despite this obstinacy; but having been convicted, during a period of
profound peace, of maintaining an intelligence with the Spaniards, he
was made prisoner by a stratagem, by Nicolas Rapin, provost of the
connetablie (or constable's jurisdiction), as an accomplice of the Duc
de Biron, as he was on the point of delivering up both the fort and the
island to his dangerous allies.

[204] L'Etoile, vol. x. pp. 36, 37.

[205] Charles de Lorraine, Duc de Mayenne, was the second son of
Francois de Lorraine, Duc de Guise, and was born in 1554. He
distinguished himself at the sieges of Poitiers and La Rochelle, and at
the battle of Montcontour, and fought successfully against the
Calvinists in Guienne and Saintonge. His brothers having been killed at
the States of Blois in 1588, he declared himself chief of the League,
and assumed the title of lieutenant-general of the kingdom and crown of
France; and by virtue of this self-created authority, caused the
Cardinal de Bourbon to be declared King, under the name of Charles X.
Having inherited the hatred of his brothers for Henri III, and his
successor Henri IV, he marched eighty thousand men against the latter
Prince, but was defeated, both at Arques and Ivry. He annihilated the
faction of the Sixteen; and was ultimately compelled to effect a
reconciliation with the King in 1599, when Henri IV, with his usual
clemency, not only pardoned his past opposition, but bestowed upon him
the government of the Isle of France. The Duc de Mayenne died in 1611,
leaving by his wife, Henriette de Savoie, daughter of the Comte de
Tende, one son, Henri, who died without issue in 1621.

[206] Charles de Lorraine, Duc de Guise, born in 1571, was the son of
Henri, Duc de Guise, who was assassinated at the States of Blois in
1588. At the period of his father's death he was conveyed to the castle
of Tours, where he was retained a prisoner until August 1591, when he
effected his escape, a circumstance which materially changed the
fortunes of the League. The general impression in the capital had been
that he would become the husband of the Infanta Isabel, the daughter of
Philip II of Spain, who would cause him to be proclaimed King, an
arrangement which the Duque de Feria, the Spanish ambassador, proposed
to the League in 1593. The Legate, the Sixteen, and the doctors of the
Sorbonne, alike favoured this election, and the negotiations proceeded
so far that the Spaniards and Neapolitans in Paris rendered him regal
honours. The young Prince, who had at this period only attained his
twenty-second year, expressed great indignation at being made the puppet
of so absurd a comedy, feeling convinced that neither the Duc de Mayenne
nor the Duc de Nemours, both of whom coveted the crown, would finally
favour his accession; and there can be little doubt that the state of
extreme poverty to which he was reduced at the time caused him to
consider the project as still more extravagant than he might otherwise
have done, it being stated (_Mem. pour l'Hist. de France_) that his
servants were, on one occasion, compelled to pawn one of his cloaks and
his saddle-cloth in order to furnish him with a dinner.

[207] Sully, _Mem_. vol. iv. pp. 128, 129. Daniel, vol. vii. p. 423.
Mezeray, vol. x. p. 219.

[208] Elisabeth de France, who married in 1615 Philip IV of Spain.

[209] Bassompierre, _Mem_. p. 26.



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

A few weeks after the birth of Madame Elisabeth the Court returned to
Paris, where, in honour of the little Princess, several ballets were
danced and a grand banquet was given to the sovereigns by the nobility;
but the heart of the Queen was too full of chagrin to enable her to
assist with even a semblance of gratification at the festivities in
which those around her were absorbed. The new-born tenderness lately
exhibited by her husband had gradually diminished; while the assumption
of the favourite, who was once more in her turn about to become a
mother, exceeded all decent limits. The daily and almost hourly disputes
between the royal couple were renewed with greater bitterness than ever,
and when, on the 21st of January, Madame de Verneuil, like herself, and
again under the same roof, gave birth to a daughter,[210] Marie de
Medicis no longer attempted to suppress the violence of her indignation;
nor was it until the King, alike chafed and bewildered by her
upbraidings, declared that should she persist in rendering his existence
one of perpetual turmoil and discomfort he would fulfil his former
threat of compelling her to quit the kingdom, that he could induce her
to desist from receiving him with complaints and reproaches. Henry was
aware that he had discovered, by the assertion of this resolve, a
certain method of silencing his unfortunate consort, who, had she been
childless, would in all probability gladly have sacrificed her ambition
to her sense of dignity; but Marie was a mother, and she felt that her
own destiny must be blended with that of her offspring. Thus she had
nothing left to her save to submit; and deeply as she suffered from the
indignities which were heaped upon her as a wife, she shrank from a
prospect so appalling as a separation from the innocent beings to whom
she had given life.

Meanwhile the King, wearied alike of the exigencies of his mistress and
the cold, unbending deportment of the Queen, again made approaches to
Mademoiselle de Guise, upon whom he had already, a year or two
previously, lavished all those attentions which bespoke alike his
admiration and his designs; but he was not destined to be more
successful with this lady than before, her intimacy with the Queen, to
whose household she was attached, rendering her still more averse than
formerly to encourage the licentious addresses of the monarch. The
excitement of this new passion nevertheless sufficed for a time to wean
him from his old favourite; and forgetting his age in his anxiety to win
the favour of the beautiful and witty Marguerite, he appeared on the
19th of February in a rich suit of white satin in the court of the
Tuileries, where he had invited the nobles of his Court to run at the
ring, and acquitted himself so dexterously that he twice carried it off
amid the acclamations of the spectators.

From this period until the end of the month the royal circle were
engaged in one continual succession of festivities, wherein high play,
banquets, ballets, balls (at the latter of which a species of dance
denominated _Braules_, and corrupted by the English into _Brawls_, which
became afterwards so popular at the Court of Elizabeth, was of constant
occurrence, as well as the _Corranto_, a livelier but less graceful
movement), and theatrical representations formed the principal features.
An Italian company invited to France by the Queen, under the management
of Isabella Andreini, also appeared before the Court, but no record is
left of the nature of their performance.[211]

From this temporary oblivion of all political anxiety Henry was,
however, suddenly aroused by a rumour which reached the Court of a
revolt in the town of Metz, which proved to be only too well founded.
For some time previously great discontent had existed among the
citizens, who considered themselves aggrieved by the tyranny of the two
lieutenants[212] of the Duc d'Epernon their governor; and to such a
height had their opposition to this delegated authority at length risen
that the Duke found himself compelled to proceed to the city, in order,
if possible, to reconcile the conflicting parties. This intelligence had
no sooner been communicated to the King than he resolved to profit by
so favourable an opportunity of repossessing himself, not only of the
town itself, but of the whole province of Messin, in order to disable
the Duc d'Epernon (against whom his suspicions had already been aroused)
from making hereafter a disloyal use of the power which his authority
over so important a territory afforded to him of contravening the
measures of the sovereign. The fortress was one of great importance to
Henry, who was aware of the necessity of placing it in the safe keeping
of an individual upon whom he could place the fullest and most perfect
reliance; and the more so that M. d'Epernon had, during the reign of
Henri III, rather assumed in Metz the state of a sovereign prince than
fulfilled the functions of its governor, and that he would, as the King
at once felt, if not opposed, resist any encroachment upon his
self-constituted privileges. The revolt of the Messinese (for, as was
soon ascertained, the disaffection was not confined to the city, but
extended throughout the whole of the adjoining country) afforded an
admirable opening for the royal intervention, and Henry instantly
decided upon visiting the province in person, accompanied by his whole
Court, before the two factions should have time to reconcile their
differences and to deprecate his interference. At the close of February
he accordingly commenced his journey, despite the inclemency of the
weather and the unfavourable condition of the roads, which rendered
travelling difficult and at times even dangerous for the Queen and her
attendant ladies; and pretexting a visit to his sister the Duchesse de
Bar, he advanced to Verdun, where he remained for a few days ere he
finally made his entry into Metz.

So unexpected an apparition paralyzed all parties. M. d'Epernon having
refused to consent to the removal of Sobole, who was, as he knew,
devoted to his interests, had failed to appease the indignation of the
Messinese, who were consequently eager to obtain justice from the King;
while Sobole himself, after a momentary vision of fortifying the citadel
and defying the royal authority, became convinced that his design was
not feasible; and he accordingly obeyed without a murmur the sentence of
banishment pronounced against him, gave up the fortress unconditionally,
and left the province.

Sobole had no sooner resigned his trust than the King appointed M. de
Montigny lieutenant-governor of the province of Messin, and his brother,
M. d'Arquien,[213] lieutenant-governor of the town and fortress; while
the garrison was replaced by a portion of the bodyguard by which the
monarch had been accompanied from the capital.

The vexation of the Duc d'Epernon was extreme, but he dared not
expostulate, although he at once perceived that his power was
annihilated. So long as his lieutenants had been creatures of his own,
his dominion over the province had been absolute; but when they were
thus replaced by officers of the King's selection, his influence became
merely nominal; so great, moreover, had been the tact of Henry, that he
had found means to compel the Duke himself to solicit the dismissal of
Sobole and his brother, in order to assure his own tenure of office; and
he was consequently placed in a position which rendered all semblance of
discontent impossible, while the citizens, delighted to find themselves
thus unexpectedly revenged upon their oppressors, and proud of the
presence of the sovereigns within their walls, were profuse in their
demonstrations of loyalty and attachment.

A slight indisposition having detained the King for a longer period than
he had anticipated at Metz, the Duchesse de Bar, the Duc de Lorraine,
and the Duc and Duchesse de Deux-Ponts, arrived on the 16th of March to
welcome him to the province. Thereupon a series of entertainments was
given to these distinguished guests which was long matter of tradition
among the Messinese; and which resulted in the betrothal of Mademoiselle
de Rohan and the young Duc de Deux-Ponts.[214]

While still sojourning at Metz, information reached Henry of the serious
illness of Elizabeth of England; a despatch having been forwarded to the
monarch by the Comte de Beaumont,[215] his ambassador at the Court of
London, informing him of the apprehensions which were entertained that
her Majesty could not survive so grave a malady. The effect of this
intelligence was to induce the King to hasten his return to his capital,
and he accordingly prepared for immediate departure; but he was finally
prevailed upon to sojourn for a few days at Nancy, where Madame (his
sister) had prepared a magnificent ballet, which was accordingly
performed, greatly to the admiration of the two Courts. Henry, however,
whose anxiety exceeded all bounds, caused courier after courier to be
despatched for tidings of the illustrious invalid, and took little share
in the festivities which were designed to do him honour. He was probably
on the eve, as he declared in a letter to the Due de Sully, of losing an
ally who was the enemy of his enemies, and a second self, while he was
totally ignorant of the views and feelings of her successor.

His forebodings were verified, for ere the Court left Nancy, Elizabeth
had breathed her last; which intelligence was immediately conveyed to
him, together with the assurance that her council had secured the person
of the Lady Arabella Stuart, the cousin of the King of Scotland, and
that there was consequently nothing to fear as regarded the succession.
The death of Elizabeth did not in fact in any respect affect the
relative position of the two countries, neither Henri IV nor James I.
being desirous to terminate the good understanding which existed between
them; and on the 30th of July a treaty of confederation was concluded
between the two sovereigns by Sully, in which they were mutually pledged
to protect the United Provinces of the Low Countries against their
common enemy Philip of Spain.

But, notwithstanding the apparent certainty of a continuance of his
amicable relations with England, whether it were that this fatal
intelligence operated upon the bodily health of the King, or that his
hasty journey homeward had overtaxed his strength, it is certain that on
reaching Fontainebleau he had so violent an attack of fever as to be
compelled to countermand the council which had been convened for the
third day after his arrival. The Court physicians, bewildered by so
sudden and severe an illness, declared the case to be a hopeless one;
while Henry himself, believing that his end was approaching, caused a
letter to be written to Sully to desire his immediate attendance.[216]
So fully, indeed, did he appear to anticipate a fatal termination of the
attack, that while awaiting the arrival of the minister, he caused the
portrait of the Dauphin to be brought to him; and after remaining for a
few seconds with his eyes earnestly fixed upon it, he exclaimed, with a
deep sigh: "Ha! poor child, what will you have to suffer if your father
should be taken from you!" [217]

[Illustration: SULLY. Paris Richard Bentley and Son 1890.]

Sully lost no time in obeying the melancholy summons of the King; and,
on arriving at Fontainebleau, at once made his way to the royal chamber,
where he indeed found Henry in his bed, but with no symptoms of
immediate dissolution visible either in his countenance or manner. The
Queen sat beside him with one of his hands clasped in hers; and as he
remarked the entrance of the Duke, he extended the other, exclaiming:
"Come and embrace me, my friend; I rejoice at your arrival. Within two
hours after I had written to you I was in a great degree relieved from
pain; and I have since gradually recovered from the attack. Here," he
continued, turning towards the Queen, "is the most trustworthy and
intelligent of all my servants, who would have assisted you better than
any other in the preservation alike of my kingdom and of my children,
had I been taken away. I am aware that his humour is somewhat austere,
and at times perhaps too independent for a mind like yours; and that
there would not have been many wanting who might, in consequence, have
endeavoured to alienate from him the affections of yourself and of my
children; but should it ever be so, do not yield too ready a credence to
their words. I sent for him expressly that I might consult with both of
you upon the best method to avert so great an evil; but, thanks be to
God, I feel that such a precaution was in this instance
unnecessary." [218]

Sully, in describing this scene, withholds all comment upon the King's
perfect confidence in the heart and intellect of his royal consort; but
none can fail to feel that the moment must have been a proud one for
Marie, in which she became conscious that the nobler features of her
character had been thoroughly appreciated by her husband. The vanity of
the woman could well afford to slumber while the value of the wife and
of the Queen was thus openly and generously acknowledged.

And truly did Marie de Medicis need a remembrance like this to support
her throughout her unceasing trials; for scarcely had the King recovered
sufficient strength to encounter the exertion than he determined to
remove to Paris; and, having intimated his wish to the Queen, immediate
preparations were made for their departure. They arrived in the capital
totally unexpected at nine o'clock in the morning, and alighted at the
Hotel de Gondy, where Henry took a temporary leave of his wife, and
hastened to the residence of Madame de Verneuil, with whom he remained
until an hour after mid-day; thence he proceeded to the abode of M. le
Grand, with whom he dined; nor was it until a late hour that he rejoined
the Queen,[219] who at once became aware that the temporary separation
between the monarch and his favourite, occasioned by the journey to
Metz, had failed to produce the effect which she had been sanguine
enough to anticipate.

Nor did Marie deceive herself; for, during the sojourn of the Court at
Paris, which lasted until the month of June, Henry abandoned himself
with even less reserve than formerly to his passion for the Marquise;
while the forsaken Queen--who hourly received information of the
impertinent assumption of that lady, and who was assured that she had
renewed with more arrogance, and more openly than ever, her pretended
claim to the hand of the sovereign--unable to conceal her indignation,
embittered the casual intercourse between herself and her royal consort
with complaints and upbraidings which irritated and angered the King;
and at length caused an estrangement between them greater than any which
had hitherto existed. There can be little doubt that this period of
Marie's life was a most unhappy one. Deprived even of the presence of
her children, who, from considerations of health, had been removed to
St. Germain-en-Laye, and who could not in consequence be the solace of
every weary hour, she found her only consolation in the society of her
immediate household, and the zealous devotion of Madame de Concini; to
whose first-born child she became joint sponsor with M. de Soissons,
greatly to the annoyance of the King, who watched with a jealous eye the
ever-increasing influence of the Florentine favourite.

Previously to her marriage with the Duc de Bar, Madame, the King's
sister, had affianced herself to M. de Soissons; but the circumstance no
sooner became known to Henry than he expressed his extreme distaste at
such an union, and directed the Due de Sully to expostulate with both
parties, and to induce them, should it be possible, to abandon the
project, and to give a written promise never to renew their engagement.
In this difficult and delicate mission the minister ultimately
succeeded; but since that period a coldness had existed between the two
nobles which at length terminated in mutual dissension and avoidance. It
was, consequently, with considerable surprise that while preparing for
his embassy to England, where he was entrusted with the congratulations
of his own sovereign to James I. on his accession, M. de Sully found
himself on one occasion addressed by the Prince in an accent of warmth
and friendliness to which he had long been unaccustomed from his lips;
and heard him cordially express his obligation for some service which,
in his official capacity, the minister had lately rendered him, and
declare that thenceforward he should never recur to the past, but rather
trust that for the future they might be firm and fast friends. Sully
answered in the same spirit; and thus a misunderstanding which had
disturbed the whole Court, where each had partisans who violently
defended his cause, and thus rendered the schism more serious than it
might otherwise have been, was apparently terminated; but the Duke had
no sooner returned to France than it was renewed more bitterly than
ever, to the extreme annoyance of the King, who was reluctant to
interfere; the high rank of M. de Soissons on the one hand, and the
eminent services of Sully on the other, rendering him equally averse to
dissatisfy either party.

In the month of August 1603 the Comte de Soissons, whose lavish
expenditure made it important for him to increase his income by some new
concession on the part of the monarch, held an earnest consultation
with Madame de Verneuil, with whom he was on the closest terms of
intimacy, as to the most feasible method of effecting his object, and it
was at length determined that the Prince should solicit the privilege of
exacting a duty of fifteen sous upon every bale of cloth, either
imported or exported throughout the kingdom; while the Marquise pledged
herself to exert her influence to induce the King to consent to the
arrangement, for which service she was to receive one-fifth of the
proceeds resulting from the tax. Extraordinary as such a demand must
appear in the present day, it was, according to Sully, by no means an
unusual one at that period; when, by his rigorous retrenchments, he had
greatly reduced the revenues of the Court nobles, and put it out of the
power of the monarch to bestow upon them, as he had formerly done, the
most lavish sums from his own privy purse; thus inducing them to adopt
every possible expedient in order to increase their diminished incomes.
Sympathizing with the annoyance of his impoverished courtiers, and
anxious to silence their murmurs, the good-natured and reckless
sovereign seldom met their requests with a denial, and from this abuse a
number of petty taxes, each perhaps insignificant in itself, but in the
aggregate amounting to a heavy infliction upon the people, were levied
on all sides, and under all pretences; and the evil at length became so
serious that the prudent minister found it necessary to expostulate
respectfully with his royal master upon the danger of such a system,
and to entreat of him to discountenance any further imposts which had no
tendency to increase the revenues of the state, but merely served to
encourage the prodigality of the nobles.

It was precisely at this unpropitious moment that M. de Soissons
proffered his demand, which was warmly seconded by Madame de Verneuil,
who represented to the monarch the impossibility of his refusing a
favour of this nature to a Prince of the Blood, when he had so
frequently made concessions of the same nature to individuals of
inferior rank; and the certainty that, were his request negatived, M. de
Soissons would not fail to feel himself at once injured and aggrieved.
Still, mindful of the promise which had been extorted from him by Sully,
the King hesitated; but upon being more urgently pressed by the
favourite, he at length demanded what would be the probable yearly
produce of the tax, when he was assured by the Count that it could not
exceed ten thousand crowns; upon which Henry, who was anxious not to
irritate him by a refusal where the favour solicited was so
comparatively insignificant, at once signified his compliance; and as
the subject had been cleverly mooted by the two interested parties at
Fontainebleau, while the minister of finance was absent in the capital,
Madame de Verneuil, by dint of importunity, succeeded in inducing the
monarch to sign an order for the immediate imposition of the duty in
favour of M. de Soissons; but before he was prevailed upon to do this,
he declared to the Prince that he should withdraw his consent to the
arrangement, if it were proved that the produce of the tax exceeded the
yearly sum of fifty thousand francs, or that it pressed too heavily upon
the people and the commercial interests of the kingdom. This reservation
was by no means palatable to M. de Soissons, who had, when questioned as
to the amount likely to be derived from the transaction, answered rather
from impulse than calculation; but as the said reservation was merely
verbal, while the edict authorizing the levy of the impost was tangible
and valid, the Prince, after warmly expressing his acknowledgments to
the monarch, carried off the document without one misgiving of success.

Henry, however, when he began to reflect upon the nature of the
concession which he had been prevailed upon to make, could not suppress
a suspicion that it was more important than it had at first appeared;
and, conscious that he had falsified his promise to the minister, he
resolved to ascertain the extent of his imprudence. He accordingly, the
same evening, despatched a letter to Sully, in which, without divulging
what had taken place, he directed him to ascertain the probable proceeds
of such a tax, and the effect which it was likely to produce upon those
on whom it would be levied.

So unexpected an inquiry startled the finance minister, who instantly
apprehended that a fresh attack had been made upon the indulgence of the
monarch; and he forthwith anxiously commenced a calculation, based upon
solid and well-authenticated documents, which resulted in the discovery
that the annual amount of such an impost could not be less than three
hundred thousand crowns; while it must necessarily so seriously affect
the trade in flax and hemp, that it was likely to ruin the provinces of
Brittany and Normandy, as well as a great part of Picardy.

Under these circumstances it was decided between Henry and his minister,
that the latter should withhold his signature to the order which had
been extorted from the King; without which, or a letter from the
sovereign specially commanding the registration of the edict by the
Parliament, the document was invalid. There can be no doubt that the
most manly and dignified course which the monarch could have adopted,
would have been to inform M. de Soissons of the result of the
verification which had been made; and to have declared that, in
accordance with his expressed determination when conditionally conceding
the edict, he had resolved, upon ascertaining the magnitude of the sum
which must be levied by such a tax, not to permit its operation. This
was not, however, the manner in which Henry met the difficulty. He felt
that his position was an onerous one, and he gladly transferred his
responsibility to M. de Sully; who accordingly, upon the application of
the Prince for his signature, in order that the document might be laid
before the Parliament and thus rendered available, declined to accede to
the request; alleging that the affair was one of such extreme
importance, that he dared not take upon himself to forward it without
the concurrence of the council.

M. de Soissons urged and expostulated in vain; the minister was
inflexible; and at length the Prince withdrew, but not before he had
given vent to his indignation with a bitterness which convinced his
listener that thenceforward all kindly feeling between them was at
an end.

But if the Count thus suffered himself to be defeated by a first
refusal, Madame de Verneuil was by no means inclined to follow his
example. Baffled but not beaten, she resolved upon returning to the
charge; and accordingly she drove to the residence of the minister, and
met him at the door of his closet as he was about to proceed to the
Louvre, in order to have an interview with the King.

There was an expression of haughty defiance in the eye of the favourite,
and a heightened colour upon her cheek, which at once betrayed to Sully
the purpose of her visit; while he on his side received her with a calm
courtesy which was ill-calculated to inspire her with any hope of
success; and she had scarcely seated herself before he gave her reason
to perceive that he was as little inclined to temporize as herself. When
they met he held in his hand a roll of paper, which, even after she had
entered the apartment, he still continued to grasp with a pertinacity
that did not fail to attract her attention.

"And what may be the precious document, Monsieur le Ministre," she
demanded flippantly, "of which you find it so impossible to relax
your hold?"

"A precious document indeed, Madame," was the abrupt reply, "and one in
which you figure among many others." So saying, he unrolled the scroll,
and read aloud a list of edicts, solicited or granted, similar to that
of the Comte de Soissons, one of which bore her own name.

"And what are you about to do with it?" she asked.

"To make it the subject of a remonstrance to his Majesty."

"Truly," exclaimed the Marquise, no longer able to control her rage,
"the King will be well-advised should he listen to your caprices, and by
so doing affront twenty individuals of the highest quality. Upon whom
should he confer such favours as these, if not upon the Princes of the
Blood, his cousins, his relatives, and his mistresses?"

"That might be very well," replied the minister, totally unmoved by her
insolence, "if the King could pay these sums out of his own privy purse;
but that they should be levied upon the merchant, the artizan, and the
labourer, is entirely out of the question. It is they who feed both him
and us; and one master is enough, without their being compelled to
support so many cousins, relatives, and mistresses." [220]

Madame de Verneuil could bear no more; but rising passionately from her
chair, she left the room without even a parting salutation to the
plain-spoken minister, who saw her depart with as much composure as he
had seen her enter; and quietly rolling up the obnoxious document which
had formed the subject of discussion between them, he in his turn got
into his carriage, and proceeded to the Louvre.

Furious alike at her want of success and at the affront which had been
put upon her, the Marquise drove from the Arsenal to the hotel of M. de
Soissons; where, still smarting under the rebuff of the uncompromising
Duke, she did not scruple sufficiently to garble his words to give them
all the appearance of a premeditated and wilful insult to the Prince
personally. She assured him that in reply to her remark that the
relatives of the monarch possessed the greatest claim upon his
liberality, M. de Sully had retorted by the observation that the King
had too many kinsmen, and that it would be well for the nation could it
be delivered from some of them.

This report so exasperated M. de Soissons, that on the following morning
he demanded an audience of the sovereign, during which he bitterly
inveighed against the arrogance and presumption of the minister, and
claimed instant redress for this affront to his honour and his dignity
as a Prince of the Blood; haughtily declaring that should the King
refuse to do him justice, he would find means to avenge himself.

The unseemly violence of the Count, by offending the self-respect of the
monarch, could not have failed, under any circumstances, to defeat its
own object; but aware as he was that Sully had sought only the
preservation of his master's interests, Henry was even less inclined
than he might otherwise have been to yield to a dictation of this
imperious nature. The very excess of his indignation consequently
rendered him calm and self-possessed, and thus at once gave him a
decided advantage over his excited interlocutor. Instead of retorting
angrily, and involving himself in an undignified dispute, he replied to
the intemperate language of the Count by calmly inquiring if he were to
understand that M. de Sully had addressed the obnoxious remark which was
the subject of complaint to the Prince himself, or if it had merely been
reported to him by a third person. To this question M. de Soissons
impatiently replied that the insult had not indeed been uttered to
himself personally, but that the individual by whom it was communicated
to him was above all suspicion; while he moreover considered that his
assurance of its truth ought to suffice, as he was incapable of

"Were it so, cousin," said Henry coldly, "you would differ greatly from
the other members of your family, especially your elder brother; but
since you appear to place so perfect a reliance on the veracity of your
informant, you have only to name him to me, and to explain precisely
what he alleges to have passed, and I shall then understand what is
necessary to be done, and will endeavour to satisfy you as far as I can
reasonably do so."

M. de Soissons was not, however, prepared to involve Madame de Verneuil
in a quarrel which threatened the most serious results; and he
consequently declared that he had plighted his word not to divulge the
identity of his informant; a promise which he, moreover, considered to
be utterly unnecessary, as he was ready to pledge himself to the entire
truth of what he had advanced.

"So, cousin," said the King with an ambiguous smile, "you screen
yourself under the shadow of an oath from revealing to me what I desire
to know; then I, in my turn, swear not to believe one syllable of your
complaint beyond what M. de Sully may himself report to me; for I hold
his veracity in as great estimation as you do that of the nameless
partisan to whom you are indebted for the fine story you have
inflicted upon me."

It was in somewhat the same frame of mind in which the Marquise had
quitted the finance minister that M. de Soissons, as the King rose and
thus indicated the termination of the interview, passed from the royal
closet; nor did he retire until he had indulged in such unrestrained
threats of vengeance that Henry considered it expedient to despatch
Zamet without delay to the Arsenal to warn Sully to be upon his guard
against the impetuous Prince, and not to venture abroad without a
sufficient suite; while at the same time the messenger was instructed to
inquire if the obnoxious expression had indeed been used, and to whom.

On being apprised of the visit which had been paid by Madame de
Verneuil to the Duke, the King instantly comprehended the whole
intrigue, and at once declared that it was useless to search further; as
he well knew that she possessed both malice and invention enough to
distort the words of the minister to her own purposes; an admission
which indicated for the moment a considerable decrease of infatuation on
the part of her royal lover.[221]

That this had, however, already become evident, was exemplified by the
fact that upon some rumour of the kind being addressed to the Duchesse
de Rohan, coupled with an inference that the infidelity of Madame de
Verneuil had become known to the King, the young Duchess had gaily
replied: "What could he anticipate? How was it possible for love to
nestle between a mouth and chin which are always interfering with each
other?" [222]

It is scarcely doubtful that the present incautious proceeding of the
Marquise tended to shake the confidence which Henry had hitherto felt in
an affection so admirably simulated that it might have inspired trust in
an individual of far inferior rank. He could not overlook the fact that
Madame de Verneuil had presumed to declare herself hostile to his
favourite minister, and had even made a tool of one of the Princes of
the Blood; an affront to himself which he resented after his accustomed
fashion, by withdrawing himself from her society, and assiduously
appearing in the private circle of the Queen.

On this occasion, however, week succeeded week, and the monarch still
continued to avoid the enraged favourite; and even occasionally alluded
to her with a contempt which stung her haughty and presumptuous spirit
beyond endurance. She saw her little Court melting away, her flatterers
dispersing, and her friends becoming estranged; nor could she conceal
from herself that if she failed shortly to discover some method of
estranging Henry from the Queen, and once more asserting her own
influence, all her greatness would be scattered to the winds. Her vanity
was also as deeply involved as her ambition, for she had hitherto
believed her power over the affections of the King to be so entire that
he could not liberate himself from her thrall; yet now, in the zenith of
her beauty, in the pride of her intellect, and in the very climax of her
favour, she found herself suddenly abandoned, as if the effort had not
cost a single struggle to her royal lover.

Marie de Medicis, meanwhile, was happy. She cared not to look back upon
the past; she sought not to look forward into the future; to her the
present was all in all, and she began to encourage bright dreams of
domestic bliss, by which she had never before been visited since the
first brief month of her marriage. So greatly indeed did her new-born
happiness embellish the exulting Queen, that it was at this period that
the profligate monarch declared to several of his confidential friends,
that had she not been his wife, his greatest desire would have been to
possess her as a mistress.[223] The whole of her little Court felt the
influence of her delight; she lavished on all sides the most costly
gifts; she surrounded the King with amusements of every description, and
day after day the heart of the irritated favourite was embittered by the
reports which reached her of the unprecedented gaiety and splendour of
the Queen's private circle.

As the dissension which had arisen between Sully and the Comte de
Soissons rather increased in intensity than yielded to the royal
expostulation, Henry resolved to give a public proof of his continued
regard for the minister; and for this purpose he caused him to be
informed that on his way to Normandy (whither he was about to proceed in
order to investigate the truth of certain rumours which had reached him
of a meditated insurrection in that province) he would pass by Rosny,
and should claim his hospitality for one day with his whole Court. As
the King was on the eve of his departure, Sully at once left the
capital, and by travelling with great speed, he reached the chateau four
days before his expected guests, for whose reception he made the most
magnificent preparations of which so brief an interval would admit. As
the approaches to the domain were not yet completed, and it was
necessary to level the road by which their Majesties would arrive, the
Duke, in order to accomplish this object, incautiously caused a canal by
which it was traversed, and over which the bridge was still unbuilt, to
be dammed up; and this arrangement made, he directed his whole
attention to the internal decorations of the castle. Unfortunately,
however, while his royal and noble guests were still seated at the
elaborate and costly banquet which had been prepared for them, a
terrific storm burst over the edifice, and information was brought to
the host that the waters had become so swollen as to have overflowed
their banks, while the pent-up canal which he had just driven back had
inundated the court, and was pouring itself in a dense volume through
the offices. The alarm instantly became general; the Queen, the
Princesses, and the ladies of the Court sought refuge in the upper rooms
of the castle, whither, as the danger momentarily increased, they were
soon followed by Henry and his retinue; and meanwhile Sully gave instant
orders that workmen should be despatched to clear the bed of the canal,
and thus afford an escape for the invading element. This was happily
accomplished without any loss of life, and the accident entailed no
further evil consequence than the destruction of all the fruits and
confectionary by which the banquet was to have terminated.[224] After
this misadventure the Court proceeded to Caen, where at the close of a
patient investigation the King withdrew the government of the city from
M. de Crevecoeur-Montmorency, who was accused of being engaged in a
treasonable correspondence with the Duc de Bouillon, the Comte
d'Auvergne, and the Duc de la Tremouille, his relative, and bestowed it
upon M. de Bellefonds.[225] Thence the royal party removed to Rouen,
where Henry succeeded in re-establishing perfect order throughout the
whole province of Lower Normandy.

On his return to Paris the King learnt that M. de Soissons, who had
declined to accompany him in his journey, so deeply resented his visit
to Rosny, the purpose of which he had comprehended upon the instant,
that he had resolved in consequence to quit the kingdom. As the
voluntary expatriation of the Princes of the Blood tended alike to
weaken his resources and to undermine his authority, Henry at once
directed MM. de Bellievre and de Sillery to wait upon the Count, and to
assure him that, so soon as he produced certain proof of the culpability
of the Duc de Sully, he should receive ample satisfaction for the
alleged affront, but that until such proof was furnished he should
continue to protect the minister, and to consider him innocent of the
offence imputed to him. The Chancellor was, moreover, instructed to
inquire into the motive which had induced the Prince to declare his
intention of leaving France.

To this message M. de Soissons coldly replied by observing that he had
been insulted by the Duke, to whom he had given no cause of offence; but
that as it nevertheless appeared by the statement to which he had just
listened, that it was the pleasure of his Majesty to defend the accused
rather than the accuser, he considered that he need not advance any
further reason for absenting himself from the kingdom. After the
departure of MM. de Bellievre and de Sillery, however, the Prince
requested the Duc de Montbazon[226] and the Comte de St. Pol[227] to
wait upon the sovereign, in order to explain to him his reason for
quitting the country; to assure him of the regret which he felt that
recent circumstances had left him no other alternative; and to entreat
his Majesty to pardon him if he ventured to take his leave through the
medium of these his friends, rather than, by appearing in person, incur
the risk of aggravating his displeasure.

Having seen the two nobles depart upon their mission, M. de Soissons
mounted his horse and at once proceeded to Paris, to make the necessary
preparations for the journey which he contemplated; but before he had
taken any definite measures to that effect he was rejoined by his
friends, who had been directed by the King to follow him with all speed,
and to explain to him that he had altogether mistaken the message
entrusted to the Chancellor, as the only protection which his Majesty
had declared his intention of affording to M. de Sully was against his
own threats of personal violence; while in the second place they were
instructed to inform him that the King strictly enjoined him not to quit
Paris, as a want of obedience upon this point would prove very
prejudicial to his Majesty's interests; and finally, they were
authorized to assure him that, in the event of his compliance with the
royal wishes, he should receive ample satisfaction for the affront of
which he complained.

In reply, M. de Soissons maintained that he had given no ground for the
apprehensions expressed by the monarch for the safety of his minister,
and that he had never entertained any design to injure the interests of
the sovereign, while the knowledge that his withdrawal from the country
might have such a tendency was a more powerful preventive to his
departure than "though he had been fettered by a hundred chains"; and
that all he required from his adversary was a public acknowledgment of
the offence which he had committed against him.

This concession of the irate Prince was followed by a still greater one
on the part of the minister, who, anxious to relieve the mind of his
royal master from the annoyance which he felt at a quarrel in which
every noble of the Court had taken part, and which threatened to become
still more inveterate from day to day, addressed a letter to M. de
Soissons, wherein, although he explicitly denied "having uttered the
expression which was imputed to him," he overwhelmed the Prince with the
most elaborate and hyperbolical assurances of respect and devotion,
declaring "that he would rather die than so forget himself."

This submissive letter was accepted as an apology, and a hollow peace
between the disputants was thus effected, which restored for a time the
tranquillity of the Court.

On the 2nd of February 1604 the Queen was invited to participate in a
ceremony which, had she been less happy and hopeful than she chanced to
be at that particular period, could not have failed to excite in her
breast fresh feelings of irritation and annoyance. This was the
reception of Alexandre-Monsieur, the second legitimated son of the
monarch and Gabrielle d'Estrees, into the Order of the Knights of Malta.
The King having decided that such should be the career of the young
Prince, was anxious that he should at once assume the name and habit of
the Order, and he accordingly wrote to the Grand Master to request that
he would despatch the necessary patents, which were forwarded without
delay, accompanied by the most profuse acknowledgments on the part of
that dignitary. In order to increase the solemnity and magnificence of
the inauguration, Henry summoned to the capital the Grand Commanders
both of France and Champagne, instructing them to bring in their
respective trains as many other commanders and knights as could be
induced to accompany them; and he selected as the scene of the ceremony
the Church of the Augustines, an arrangement which was, however,
abandoned at the entreaty of the Commandeur de Villeneuf, the Ambassador
of the Order, who deemed it more dignified that the inauguration should
take place in that of the Temple, which was one of their principal

At the hour indicated the two sovereigns accordingly drove to the Temple
in the same carriage, Alexandre-Monsieur being seated between them; and
on alighting at the principal entrance of the edifice, the King
delivered the little Prince into the hands of the Grand Prior who was
there awaiting him, attended by twelve commanders and twelve knights, by
whom he was conducted up the centre aisle. The church was magnificently
decorated, and the altar, which blazed with gold and jewels, was already
surrounded by the Cardinal de Gondy, the Papal Nuncio, and a score of
bishops, all attired in their splendid sacerdotal vestments. In the
centre of the choir a throne had been erected for their Majesties,
covered with cloth of gold, and around the chairs of state were grouped
the Princes, Princesses, and other grandees of the Court, including the
ambassadors of Spain and Venice, the Connetable-Duc de Montmorency, the
Chancellor, the seven presidents of the Parliament, and the knights of
the Order of the Holy Ghost.

The _coup d'oeil_ was one of extraordinary splendour. The whole of the
sacred edifice was brilliantly illuminated by the innumerable tapers
which lit up the several shrines, and which casting their clear light
upon every surrounding object, brought into full relief the dazzling
gems and gleaming weapons that glittered on all sides. The organ pealed
out its deepest and most impressive harmony; and not a sound was heard
throughout the vast building as the Grand Prior, with his train of
knights and nobles, led the youthful neophyte to the place assigned to
him. The ceremony commenced by the consecration of the sword, and the
change of raiment, which typified that about to take place in the duties
of the Prince by his entrance into an Order which enjoined alike
godliness and virtue. The mantle was withdrawn from his shoulders, and
his outer garment removed by the knights who stood immediately around
him, after which he was presented successively with a vest of white
satin elaborately embroidered in gold and silver, having the sleeves
enriched with pearls, a waist-belt studded with jewels, a cap of black
velvet ornamented with a small white plume and a band of large pearls,
and a tunic of black taffeta. In this costume the Prince was conducted
to the high altar by the Duc and Duchesse de Vendome, followed by a
commander to assist him during the ceremony, and they had no sooner
taken their places than Arnaud de Sorbin,[228] Bishop of Nevers,
delivered a short oration eulogistic of the greatness and excellence of
the brotherhood of which he was about to become a member. The same
prelate then performed a solemn high mass, and when he had terminated
the reading of the gospel, Alexandre-Monsieur knelt before him with a
taper of white wax in his hand, to solicit admission into the Order. He
had no sooner bent his knee than the King rose, descended the steps of
the throne, and placed himself by his side, saying aloud that he put off
for awhile his sovereign dignity that he might perform his duty as a
parent, by pledging himself that when the Prince should have attained
his sixteenth year, he should take the vows, and in all things conform
himself to the rules of the institution. The procession then passed out
of the church in the same order as it had entered, and the young Prince
was immediately put into possession of the income arising from his
commandery, which was estimated at forty thousand annual livres.[229]

This ceremony was followed by a series of Court festivals, which were
abruptly terminated by the arrival of a courier from Lorraine with the
intelligence of the death of the Duchesse de Bar, an event which it was
so well known would deeply affect the King, that the principal
personages of the Court, and the members of his council, determined to
go in a body to communicate it, in order that they might offer him the
best consolation in their power. This, however, was a grief beyond their
sympathy, the affection which Henry bore towards his sister having been
unshaken throughout their lives; and the distressing intelligence was no
sooner imparted to him than he burst into a passionate flood of tears,
and desired that every one should withdraw, and leave him alone with
God. He was no sooner obeyed than he caused the windows of his closet to
be closed, and admittance refused to all comers; after which he threw
himself upon his bed, and abandoned himself to all the bitterness of a
sorrow alike unexpected and irremediable. Several days passed away in
this ungovernable grief, and when its violence at length partially
subsided, the King issued an order that the whole Court should assume
the deepest mourning, and that no one should presume to approach him in
any other garb. Not only, therefore, were all the great officers of the
Crown, and all the Court functionaries, from M. le Grand to the pages
and lacqueys in the ante-chambers, clad in the same sable livery, but
even the foreign ambassadors, anxious alike to avoid giving offence to
the monarch, and to escape the inconvenience of being excluded from his
presence and thus rendered incapable of furthering the interests of
their several sovereigns, adopted a similar habit. The mourning of the
Queen and her household more than satisfied all the exigencies of the
King; for Marie de Medicis not only sympathized deeply with the
sufferings of her royal consort, but also felt that in Madame Catherine
she had lost a sincere friend--that rarest of all luxuries to a crowned
head!--and it was not consequently in her outward apparel alone that she
gave testimony of her unfeigned regret, for in abandoning her usual
garb, she also abandoned every species of amusement, and forbade all
movement in her immediate circle beyond that which was necessitated by
the service of her attendants.

There was, however, one exception to this general concession, and that
one was consequently so conspicuous as to excite instant remark. The
Papal Nuncio had exhibited no intention of conforming to the universal
demonstration which had draped the throne and palaces of France in
sables; and the monarch no sooner ascertained the fact than he caused it
to be made known to the prelate that he had no desire to oblige him to
assume a garb repugnant to his feelings, but that he requested to be
spared his presence until the period of his own mourning was at an end.
This announcement greatly embarrassed the Nuncio, who at once felt that
by persisting in the course he had adopted he should be deprived of the
frequent audiences that were essential to the interests of the
Sovereign-Pontiff, and accordingly he resolved no longer to offer any
opposition to the express wishes of the King; but after having written
to Rome to explain that he had put on mourning simply to secure himself
against the threatened exclusion, and thereby to be enabled to watch
over the welfare of the Holy See, he ultimately followed the example of
those around him, and demanded permission in his turn to offer his
compliment of condolence to the monarch.

This he did, however, in a manner little calculated to reconcile Henry
to the reluctance which he had exhibited in performing this duty; for
after having declared his earnest sympathy with the grief of his
Majesty, he went on to remark that those who knew who he was, and for
whom he spoke, could not fail to be startled by such an assertion,
although he on his part, could assure his Majesty of his sincerity, as
while others were weeping over the body of Madame, who had died a
Protestant and a heretic, his master and himself were mourning for
her soul.

To this unexpected exordium the King replied, with considerable
indignation, that he had more faith in the mercy of God than to believe
that a Princess who had passed her life in the fulfilment of all her
social duties was destined to be condemned from the nature of her creed,
and that he himself entertained no doubt of her salvation.[230] After
which he diverted the conversation into another channel, with a tone and
manner sufficiently indicative to the Nuncio that he must not presume to
recur to so delicate a subject.

The body of Madame was, at the King's desire, conveyed to Vendome, and
deposited beside that of her mother, a dispensation to this effect
having been, after many delays, accorded by the Pope; although too late
for the Duchess to have been made aware that this the earnest wish of
her heart had been conceded.

At this period a new cause of uneasiness aroused the sovereign from his
private grief. To his extreme surprise he had received intelligence from
the Sieur de Barrault[231] that all the most secret deliberations of
his council were forthwith communicated to the King of Spain, without a
trace of the source whence this important information could be derived;
and for a time the mystery defied all the investigations which were
bestowed upon it by Henry and his ministers. At length, however, long
impunity rendered the culprit daring, and it was ascertained that Philip
III was in possession of copies of the several letters written by the
French monarch to the King of England, the Prince of Orange, and other
friendly powers, all inimical to Spain, a circumstance which at once
rendered it apparent that this treachery must be the work of some
official in whom the greatest confidence had hitherto been placed; and
steps were forthwith taken to secure the identification of the traitor,
which was effected through the agency of another equally unworthy
subject of Henry himself. A certain native of Bordeaux, named Jean Leyre
(otherwise Rafis), who had been one of the most violent partisans of the
League, and who had been banished from France, had entered the Spanish
service, and long enjoyed a pension from the sovereign of that country,
in recompense of the zeal and ardour with which he rendered every evil
office in his power to the kingdom whence he had been cast out.

Circumstances, however, tended to make Leyre less useful to Philip, who
had, as we have shown, secured a much more efficient agent, and the
ill-acquired pension had accordingly been diminished, while the traitor
had no difficulty in perceiving that the favour which he had hitherto
experienced from his new master was lessened in the same proportion, a
conviction which determined him to make a vigorous effort to obtain the
permission of his offended sovereign to return to France. In order to
effect this object, Leyre attached himself to such of his countrymen as
were, like himself, domiciliated in Spain, and finally he made the
acquaintance of one Jean Blas, who in a moment of confidence revealed to
him that a secretary of the Comte de Rochepot[232] (the predecessor of
M. de Barrault as ambassador at the Court of Madrid), who had
subsequently returned to the service of the Duc de Villeroy, still
maintained a secret correspondence with the Spanish secretaries of
state, Don Juan Idiaque Franchesez, and Prada, to whom, in consideration
of a pension of twelve hundred crowns of gold, he betrayed all the most
important measures of the French cabinet.

This man, whose name was Nicholas L'Hote, was the son of an old and
trusted follower of the Duc de Villeroy, to whose family his own
ancestors had been attached for several generations, while he himself
was the godson of the Duke, who had obtained for him the honourable
office of secretary to M. de Rochepot, when that nobleman accepted the
embassy to Spain. On the return of the Count to France, L'Hote, whose
services were no longer necessary to him, was dismissed, and upon an
application to his old patron, was unhesitatingly received into his
bureau; where, believing that his loyalty and devotion to himself were
beyond all suspicion, he was employed by M. de Villeroy in deciphering
his despatches; an occupation which afforded the traitor ample means of
continuing his nefarious correspondence with his Spanish confederates.

Leyre had no sooner obtained this important information, and moreover
convinced himself of its probability by various circumstances connected
with L'Hote which he was careful to learn from other sources, than he
proceeded to the residence of M. de Barrault, and solicited an interview
on business connected with his government. The ambassador, who was still
striving by every method in his power to discover the author of the
active and harassing treason by which his official measures were
perpetually trammelled, with a vague hope that the object of this
request might prove to be connected with the mystery which so
disagreeably occupied his thoughts, at once granted the required
audience; when Leyre, having explained his own position, and expressed
the deepest contrition for his past disloyalty, together with his ardent
desire to obliterate, by an essential service to his rightful sovereign,
a fault which was now irreparable, proceeded to inform M. de Barrault
that he was prepared to reveal a system of treachery which was even at
that moment in operation to the prejudice of France; but added that, as
in communicating this secret he should be compelled immediately to
escape from Spain, he would not consent to do so until the ambassador
pledged himself that he should be permitted to return to his own country
with a free pardon, and a sufficient pension to secure him against want;
and concluded by saying that should it be beyond the power of M. de
Barrault to give such a pledge without the royal authority, and that
should he consider it necessary to mention him by name, and to state the
nature of the promised service to his government, he must entreat him to
make this revelation solely to the monarch, and by no means to commit
the affair to writing.

To these terms M. de Barrault readily agreed; but after the departure of
Leyre, conceiving that the extreme mystery enjoined by that personage
was merely intended to enhance the implied value of his revelation; and
convinced, moreover, that the sovereign would immediately communicate
such a circumstance to his ministers, he addressed himself, as he was in
the habit of doing, to the Duc de Villeroy, from whom he shortly
afterwards received the required promise of both pardon and pension.

These were, however, no sooner placed in the hands of the astute Leyre,
than, perceiving that they bore the counter-signature of Villeroy,
instead of that of Lomenie,[233] which would have been the case had
they been forwarded through the personal medium of the King, he revealed
the whole transaction to M. de Barrault; representing that the traitor
being under the roof of the minister by whom they had been despatched,
and entirely in his confidence, must already be apprized of his danger,
as well as fully prepared to avert it by the destruction of his
betrayer; and accordingly he declared that, in order to save his life,
he must at once get into the saddle, and endeavour to distance the
pursuit which could not fail to be made with a view to seize his person.

This reasoning was so valid that the ambassador not only consented to
his immediate departure, but also caused him to be accompanied by his
own secretary, M. Descartes, by whom he was to be introduced to the
sovereign. The precaution proved salutary, as no later than the
following morning the officers of the law were sent to the house of
Leyre, and being unable to find him, forthwith mounted in their turn and
took the road to France. Fortunately for the fugitives they had,
however, already travelled a considerable distance; and although hotly
pursued, they were enabled to reach Bayonne without impediment, whence
they proceeded to Fontainebleau to report their arrival to the King.

Before they reached their destination, they encountered the Duc de
Villeroy, who was on his way to his chateau of Juvisy, and to whom
Descartes considered it expedient to declare their errand, without
concealing the name of the culprit whom they were about to accuse. The
Duke listened incredulously; and when the travellers offered, should it
meet with his approbation, to return at once to Paris and arrest his
secretary, in order that he might himself deliver him up to the monarch,
he declined to profit by the proposal, desiring them to fulfil their
mission as the service of the King required; and adding, that he should
shortly join them at Fontainebleau, where he was to be met on the morrow
by the accused party, when the necessary steps for ascertaining the
truth of the statement might be at once taken; but that until he had
obtained an audience of the monarch, and ascertained his pleasure, all
coercive measures would be premature.

With this unsatisfactory reply Leyre and his companion were fain to
content themselves; and having, as they were desired to do, delivered
into the hands of the Duke the detailed despatch of M. de Barrault with
which they had been entrusted, they saw him calmly resume his way to
Juvisy, while they continued their route to Fontainebleau.

Early the next day M. de Villeroy in his turn reached the palace, and at
once proceeded to the royal closet; where, at the command of the King,
he began to read aloud the papers which had been thus obtained; but he
had not proceeded beyond the name of the accused when Henry vehemently
interrupted him by exclaiming:

"And where is this L'Hote, your secretary? Have you caused him to be

"I think, Sire," was the reply, "that he is at my hotel; but he is still
at liberty."

"How, Sir!" said the King still more angrily; "you think that he is at
your hotel, and you have not had him seized? This is strange negligence!
What have you been about since you were informed of this act of treason,
to which you should at once have attended? See to it instantly, and
secure the culprit."

The Duc de Villeroy quitted the royal presence in anxious haste, and
made his way to the capital with all speed, feeling convinced that
should he fail in arresting his delinquent secretary he could not escape
the suspicion of the King. L'Hote had, however, profited by the
intervening time to explain his predicament to the Spanish ambassador,
who instantly perceived that not a moment must be lost. Horses were
accordingly provided, and the detected traitor, accompanied by the
steward of the ambassador, made the best of his way to Meaux, whence
they were to travel post to Luxembourg.

Orders had, meanwhile, been despatched to all the postmasters not to
supply horses to any traveller answering the description of L'Hote; but
as he wore a Spanish costume similar to that of his companion he might
still have passed undetected, had he not, while endeavouring to mount at
Meaux, trembled so violently as to fall from his saddle; a circumstance
which attracted the attention of the groom who held his stirrup, and
who immediately inferred that he must be some criminal who was flying
from justice. On re-entering the house he related the incident to his
master; and upon comparing the height, and bulk, and features of the
fugitive with the written detail furnished by the authorities, both
parties became convinced that they had suffered the very individual whom
they were commissioned to arrest to pursue his journey to the frontier
through their own agency; and thus impressed, the terrified postmaster
hastened to the Prevot des Marechaux,[234] who lost no time in following
upon his track. The fugitives had, however, changed horses before the
anxious functionary and his attendants could arrive to interpose their
authority; but despite the darkness of the night, which prevented them
from obtaining even a glimpse of those whom they were endeavouring to
overtake, they persevered with confidence, being aware that before the
close of the second stage a ferry must be passed, which would
necessarily detain the travellers.

The event proved the accuracy of their calculation, the lateness of the
hour compelling L'Hote and his companion to rouse the reluctant ferryman
from his rest, a process which involved considerable delay; and they
were consequently scarcely half way across the river when they heard
the clatter of horses' hoofs upon the bank, and the voice of the
Marechal hoarsely shouting to their conductor instantly to return, or he
should be hanged for his disobedience.

The fugitives at once felt that they were lost should they permit him to
comply; and accordingly the Spaniard drew his sword, threatening to bury
it in the heart of the affrighted ferryman should he retreat an inch;
while L'Hote, as craven as he was traitor, could only urge the boat
forward by the rope, groaning at intervals: "I am a dead man! I am a
dead man!"

On gaining the opposite shore neither of the two attempted to remount;
but, abandoning their horses, they set off at their best speed on foot;
while the postilion by whom they had been accompanied had great
difficulty, during the return of the boat, in securing the three animals
who were thus suddenly committed to his sole charge.

L'Hote, terrified and bewildered by the voices of the Prevot and his
men, who had, in their turn, passed the ferry, and unable in the
darkness to discern any path by which he might secure his escape, parted
from his companion, and continued his course along the river bank;
until, attracted by some sallows which he supposed to be an island in
the middle of the stream, he threw himself into the water in order to
reach it; but soon getting beyond his depth, and being unable to regain
the shore, as well as alarmed by the rapid approach of his pursuers, he
perished miserably; and was found on the following morning not twenty
yards from the spot where he had abandoned the land.

The Spanish steward, who was captured on the morrow in a hayloft about
two leagues from the river, was conducted to Paris with the corpse,
which was consigned to the prison of the Chatelet, where it was publicly
exposed during two days, and then drawn upon a hurdle to the place of
execution, where it was torn asunder by horses; the quarters of the body
being subsequently attached to four wheels which were placed in the
principal roads leading to the capital.

The ignominy with which the body was treated was, as Sully asserts, in
accordance with the earnest request of the Due de Villeroy, who could
not disguise from himself the difficulty of his own position; nor was it
until after several days' deliberation that Henry, remembering the
extent of the confidence placed by the Duke in the traitor by whom his
interests had been so seriously compromised, could sufficiently control
his indignation to assure him that he in no wise suspected him of
complicity, but should continue to regard him with the same trust and
favour as heretofore. The people were, however, less amenable; nor did
they scruple to accuse M. de Villeroy of participation in the crime of
his follower. They could not forget that he had been an active member of
the League; and they looked with jealousy upon every transaction in
which he was involved; while, fortunately for the Duke, the King was
ultimately prevailed upon to believe in the sincerity of his regret,
and to remember that since he had attached himself to the royal cause he
had rendered essential service to the country; nor did the murmurs of
his enemies, who had begun to hope that the treason of his secretary
must involve his own ruin, induce the monarch to exhibit towards him
either distrust or severity. So lenient, indeed, did the King show
himself, that after having being detained for a short time in prison,
the Spaniard who had been taken with L'Hote was set at liberty, as too
insignificant for trial, and as the mere tool of his master.[235]

While this affair had monopolized the attention of the King, Madame de
Verneuil, enraged by a continual estrangement which threatened the most
dangerous results to herself, and resolved at all hazards to recall the
attention of the monarch, began to assert more openly and arrogantly
than ever her claim upon his hand, and the right of her son to the
succession; while at the same time her brother, the Comte d'Auvergne,
pretexting a quarrel with M. de Soissons, quitted the Court, and
proceeded to the Low Countries, where he had for some time past been
actively engaged in organizing a conspiracy, in support of this
extravagant and hopeless pretension.

The double personage enacted by the Marquise was one which necessitated
the utmost tact and caution, for she was aware that it involved her
liberty, if not her life; and consequently, in order to secure the
sympathy of the people, while she was at the same time exciting the
passions of those discontented nobles who being remnants of the League
still retained an unconquerable jealousy of the power by which they had
been prostrated, she affected the deepest and most bitter repentance for
her past errors, and solicited the permission of the King to retire from
France with her children, that she might expiate, by a future of
retirement and piety, the faults of which she had been guilty. To this
request Henry, without a moment's hesitation, replied by the assurance
that she was at perfect liberty to withdraw from the country whenever
she saw fit to do so; adding, however, that he would not permit the
expatriation of her children, and that before her own departure she must
deliver into his hands the written promise of marriage, which, although
according to the decision of all the high ecclesiastics of the kingdom
totally void and valueless, she had nevertheless been so ill-advised as
to render a source of uneasiness and annoyance to the Queen.

This demand was, however, arrogantly rejected, the Marquise declaring
that she would neither part with her children nor with a document that
rendered her the legal wife of the King; a decision which so incensed
Marie de Medicis that she vehemently reproached her royal consort for an
act of weakness by which her whole married life had been embittered, and
refused to listen to any compromise until the obnoxious paper should
be restored.

Thus circumstanced, Henry at length resolved to exert all his
authority, and despairing of success through the medium of a third
person, he determined himself to visit the Marquise and to exact the
restitution of the document. At this period, however, Madame de Verneuil
was too deeply involved in the conspiracy of her brother to prove a
willing agent in her own defeat, and she accordingly received the
monarch with an unyielding insolence for which he was totally
unprepared; violently declaring that the promise had been freely given,
and that the birth of her son had rendered it valid. In vain did the
King insist upon the absurdity of her pretensions; she only replied by
sneering at the extraction of the Queen, and asserting her own equality
with a petty Tuscan princess, whose gestures and language were, as she
declared, the jest of the whole Court. The King, outraged by so gross an
impertinence, imperatively commanded her silence upon all that regarded
the dignity or pleasure of his royal consort, a display of firmness
which more and more exasperated the favourite, who retorted by observing
that since the monarch had seen fit to retract a solemn engagement, and
thus to brand herself and her children with disgrace, it only remained
for her to reiterate her demand for permission to leave the country,
with her son and daughter, and her father and brother, both of whom were
prepared to share her fortunes, gloomy as they might be, the fear of God
not permitting her to recur to the past without the most profound

To this persistence Henry coldly answered that in his turn he
reiterated his declaration that she was at liberty to retire to England
whenever she thought proper to do so, and to place herself under the
protection of her kinsman, the Earl of Lennox, but that he would not
suffer any other member of her family to share her exile; nor should she
herself be permitted to reside either in Spain or the Low Countries,
where the treasonable practices of the Comte d'Auvergne and the party of
the discontented nobles with whom she had recently allied herself, had
already given him just cause for displeasure.

Madame de Verneuil, perfectly unabashed by this reproach, assured the
King, with a smile of haughty defiance, that she could be as firm as
himself where her own honour and that of her children was involved, and
added that should he persist in demanding the restoration of the written
promise by which he had triumphed over her virtue, he might seek it
where it was to be obtained, as he should never receive it from her
hands; while as regarded her estrangement from himself, it had ceased to
be a subject of regret, as since he had become old he had also become
distrustful and suspicious, and his affected favour only tended to
render her an object of public jealousy and indignation.

Outraged by this last insult, the King rose angrily from his seat, and
without vouchsafing another word to the imperious Marquise quitted the
room. It was not, however, in the nature of Henri IV to find himself
once more in the presence of his mistress unmoved, and although the
indignity to which he had been subjected throughout the interview just
described should have sufficed to inspire him only with disgust for the
woman who had thus emancipated herself from every observance of respect
towards his own person and decency towards the Queen, it is nevertheless
certain that his very anger was mingled with admiration; and that not
even his sense of what was due to him both as a monarch and as a man
could overcome the attraction of Madame de Verneuil. Their temporary
separation, during which he had failed to find any equivalent for her
wit and vivacity, gave an added charm to every word she uttered; he
yearned to see her once more brilliant and happy, devoting her intellect
and her fascinations to his amusement; and even while complaining to
Sully of her impertinent and uncompromising boldness, he could not
forbear uttering a panegyric upon her better qualities, which convinced
the minister that their misunderstanding was not destined to be of long
duration, an opinion in which he was confirmed when the weak and
vacillating Henry, at the close of this enthusiastic apostrophe,
proceeded to institute a comparison between the Marquise and the Queen,
in which the latter suffered on every point. The earnest wish to please
of the favourite was contrasted with the coldness of Marie de Medicis,
the wit of the one with the haughty superciliousness of the other; in
short, the longer that the King discoursed upon the subject, the more
perfect became the conviction of his listener that the late meeting,
tempestuous as it was, had sufficed to restore to Madame de Verneuil at
least a portion of her former power.

"I have no society in my wife," pursued the monarch; "she neither amuses
nor interests me. She is harsh and unyielding, alike in manner and in
speech, and makes no concession either to my humour or my tastes. When I
would fain meet her with warmth she receives me coldly, and I am glad to
escape from her apartments to seek for amusement elsewhere. My poor
cousin De Guise is my only refuge; and although she occasionally tells
me some home-truths, yet she does it with so much good humour that I
cannot take offence, and only laugh at her sallies." [236]

It was sufficiently evident at that moment that even the "poor cousin"
of the monarch, beautiful and accomplished though she was, faded into
insignificance before the pampered and presuming favourite.

"Perhaps," says Sully, with a calm sententiousness better suited to some
question of finance, "the Queen had only herself to blame for not having
released him from the snares of her rival, and detached him from every
other affair of gallantry, as he appeared to me perfectly sincere when
he urged me to induce her to conform to _his tastes_ and to _the
character of his mind_."

M. de Sully, great as he was in his official capacity, evidently
possessed little knowledge of a woman's nature, and the workings of a
woman's pride. We have seen what were the "tastes" of Henri IV, and what
was the "character of his mind"; and although it would undoubtedly have
proved both pleasant and convenient to the harassed minister that Marie
de Medicis should have devoured her grief and mortification, and have
received the mistresses of the King as the intimates of her circle, it
was a result little to be anticipated from a pure-hearted wife, who saw
herself the victim of every intriguing beauty whose novelty or notoriety
sufficed to attract the dissolute fancy of her consort. Even at the very
moment in which M. de Sully records this inferential reproach upon the
Queen, he admits that Henry was once more in the thrall of the Marquise,
and, moreover, the obsequious friend of Mademoiselle de Guise; and yet
he seeks to visit upon Marie the odium of a disunion which can only be,
with any fairness, attributed to the King himself, who, even while
professing to return to his allegiance as a husband, was openly
indulging in a system of licentiousness calculated to degrade him in the
eyes of a virtuous and exemplary woman.

That Marie de Medicis had many faults cannot be denied by her most
zealous biographer, but that she was outraged both as a wife and as a
mother is no less certain; and adopting, as we have a right to do, the
conjectural style of M. de Sully,--perhaps, we say in our turn, had the
Queen, from the period of her marriage, been treated with the deference
and respect which were her due, the harsher features of her character
might have become softened, and the faults which posterity has been
compelled to couple with her name might never have been committed.
Assuredly her period of probation was a bitter one, and it may be
doubted whether the axe of our own eighth Henry were not after all more
merciful in reality than the wire-drawn and daily-recurring torture to
which his namesake of France subjected the haughty and high-spirited
woman who was fated to find herself the victim of his vices.

The foreboding of M. de Sully was verified, for within a few days of the
interview just recorded between the King and Madame de Verneuil, and
during the continuance of his estrangement from his wife, it soon became
known that the favourite had re-assumed her empire. In vain did the
mortified minister protest against this new weakness, and assure his
royal master that it could not fail to increase the anger and
indignation of Marie de Medicis; Henry only replied by asserting that
when Sully should have succeeded in inducing the Queen to change her
humour and to exert herself to please him, instead of persisting in
closeting herself with her foreign followers, and permitting them to
criticise his conduct and to aggravate his defects, he would forthwith
relinquish his _liaison_ with the Marquise. Such an answer, however, did
not check the zeal of his anxious adviser; who, fearful lest this last
schism should prove more important than those by which it had been
preceded, and undeterred even by the impatience with which the King
listened to his representations, persisted in assailing him with
arguments, remonstrances, and warnings, peculiarly unpalatable at all
times, but especially so at the very moment in which he had effected a
reconciliation with the favourite that promised a renewal of the
entertaining intercourse whence he derived so much gratification.

"You have now, Sire," resolutely urged the undaunted counsellor, "an
admirable opportunity of terminating in a manner worthy of your exalted
rank the difficulty by which you are beset, and of ensuring your own
future tranquillity. Assume the authority which appertains to you as a
sovereign; compel the Queen to silence; above all, strictly forbid her
any longer to indulge in public in those idle murmurs and lamentations
by which your dignity suffers so severely in the eyes of your subjects;
and visit with the most condign punishment every disrespectful word of
which others may be guilty either towards yourself or her. This effort,
Sire, will be insignificant beside others which you have made, and in
which your personal tranquillity was not involved; be no less courageous
in your own cause, and do not suffer your reputation to be tarnished by
a weakness incomprehensible in so great and powerful a monarch. By
exacting the consideration and obedience which are your due, you are
guilty of no tyranny; for it is the indisputable privilege of every
crowned head to enforce both. Let me then entreat of your Majesty at
once to assert yourself, and thus put a period to the domestic
differences by which the whole Court is convulsed."

"Your advice may be good," was the evasive reply of the King, "but you
do not yet understand me, or you would be aware that I cannot bring
myself to exercise severity against persons with whom I am in habits of
familiar intercourse, and especially against a woman."

"In that case, Sire," said Sully, "you have but one alternative. Exile
your mistress from the Court, and make the required concessions to
the Queen."

"I am prepared to do so," said Henry hastily, "if, in return for this
sacrifice on my part, she will pledge herself no longer to annoy me by
her jealousy and violence, and to meet me in the same spirit; but I have
little hope of such a result: she is perfectly unable to exercise the
necessary self-command, and is perpetually mistaking the impulse of
temper for that of reason. Her intolerance and rancour forbid all
prospect of sincere harmony between us. She is perpetually threatening
with her vengeance every woman upon whom I chance to turn my eyes; and
even the children of Gabrielle, who were in being before her arrival in
the kingdom, are as hateful to her as though she had been personally
injured by their birth; nor have I the least reason to anticipate that
she will ever overcome so irrational an antipathy. Nor can she be won by
kindness and indulgence. Not only have I ever treated her with the
respect and deference due to the Queen of a great nation, but even in
moments of pecuniary pressure I have been careful, not merely to supply
her wants, but also to satisfy her caprices; and that too when I was
aware that the sums thus bestowed were to be squandered upon the Italian
rabble whose incessant study it has been to poison her mind against both
myself and her adopted country. Would to Heaven, Rosny, that I had
followed your advice on her arrival, and compelled the mischievous cabal
to recross the Alps; but it is now too late for such regrets; and if you
can indeed succeed in inducing the Queen to become more amenable to my
wishes, and more indulgent to my errors, Ventre Saint-Gris! you will
effect a good work, in which I shall be ready to second you. But mark,
you must do this apparently upon your own responsibility, and be careful
not to let her learn that I have authorized such a measure, or you will
only defeat your own purpose, and render her more impracticable than
ever." [237]

Such was the unsatisfactory result of the effort made by the minister to
reconcile the royal couple; while, in addition to all his other
anxieties, he found himself placed in a position at once so difficult
and so dangerous that he was at a loss how to proceed, until a
circumstance fortunately occurred of which he hastened to avail himself.
In exchanging the petty Court of Florence for that of France, Marie had
speedily emancipated herself from the compulsory economy to which she
had been accustomed from her childhood, and had become reckless in her
expenditure to an excess which constantly disturbed the equanimity of
the prudent minister of finance. The current expenses of her household
amounted annually to the sum of three hundred and forty-five thousand
livres, an enormous outlay for that period; while she was so lavish to
her favourites that she was constantly applying for further supplies;
and on one occasion, when these were withheld, had actually pawned the
crown jewels, which it was necessary to redeem by a disbursement from
the public treasury. In addition to these resources, her income was also
considerably increased by gratuities, bribes from contracting
parties,[238] and edicts created in her favour; the last of which were
peculiarly obnoxious to Sully, from the fact of their harassing the
people without any national benefit; and it was accordingly with great
reluctance, and frequently not without expostulation, that he was
induced to countersign these documents.

The circumstance to which we have alluded as affording to Sully an
opening for the delicate negotiation with which he was entrusted by the
King, was an offer made to Marie de Medicis of the sum of eighty
thousand livres in the event of her causing an edict to be issued in
favour of the officials of the salt-works of Languedoc, which she
forthwith despatched to the minister by M. d'Argouges,[239] with a
request that he would use his influence to obtain it.

Having made himself acquainted with the nature and tendency of the
edict, M. de Sully desired the messenger to inform her Majesty that he
was of opinion that the sovereign might safely authorize its operation
without any injury to the public interests; but added that he feared the
moment was an unpropitious one as regarded the Queen herself, the King
being still deeply offended by some of her recent proceedings; nor would
he advise her to venture upon such an application until she had
succeeded in disarming his anger; for which purpose he respectfully
suggested that she should endeavour to conciliate her royal consort by
some concession, which he would exert all his ability to enhance in the
eyes of his master, and in every way endeavour to advance her interests
as he had already done on several previous occasions.

Marie, eager to possess herself of the large sum thus proffered for her
acceptance, consented to follow his advice; and decided upon addressing
a letter to the King, expressive of her regret at the coldness which
existed between them, and of her willingness to meet his wishes should
he condescend to explain them.

This letter having been read and approved by the finance minister was
forthwith forwarded from Fontainebleau, where Marie de Medicis was then
residing, to the King at Paris; but it was not without a struggle that
the Queen had compelled herself to such an act of self-abnegation, and
her courier was no sooner despatched than she complained in bitter terms
to M. de Sully of the humiliations to which she was subjected by the
infatuation of the monarch for Madame de Verneuil; declaring that she
could never submit to look with favour or indulgence upon a woman who
had the presumption to institute comparisons between herself and her
sovereign; who was rearing her children with all the pretensions of
Princes of the Blood Royal, and encouraging them in demonstrations of
disrespect towards her own person; and who was, moreover, fomenting
sedition, by encouraging the discontented nobles to manifestations of
disloyalty to their monarch; while the King, blinded by his passion,
made no effort to rebuke, or even to restrain, her impertinence.

The minister listened calmly and respectfully to these outpourings of
her indignation, but assured her in reply that it only depended upon
herself to annihilate the influence of the favourite, by a system of
consideration for the feelings of her royal consort of which she had not
hitherto condescended to test the efficacy. He, moreover, implored her
to make the trial; and represented so forcibly the benefit which must
accrue to herself by a restoration of domestic peace, that she at length
admitted the justice of his arguments, and pledged herself to
accelerate, by every means in her power, a full and perfect

Gratified by this almost unhoped-for success, Sully shortly afterwards
withdrew; and the reply of the King to the letter which she had
addressed to him was delivered to Marie when she was surrounded only by
her own private circle. It was at once courteous and conciliatory; and
it is probable that, had it arrived before the departure of the Duke, it
would have been acknowledged in the same spirit; but, unfortunately, the
Queen had no sooner communicated its contents to her confidential
friends than she was met by the assurance that the monarch had, on the
receipt of her missive, carried it to the Marquise, where her credulity
had excited great amusement, an assertion which was followed by other
commentaries so distasteful to her pride, that, instead of persevering
in the prudent course which she had been induced to adopt, she haughtily
informed the royal courier by whom the letter had been brought that she
should entrust him with no written reply, but should expect his Majesty
on the following day according to his own appointment.

This marked and impolitic demonstration of disrespect excited anew the
resentment of Henry, who openly expressed his indignation in the most
unmeasured terms, and that so publicly, that within a few hours Marie
was informed of every particular; and the breach which Sully had fondly
flattered himself that he was about to heal became wider and more
threatening than ever.[240]

Meanwhile the commerce of the King and the favourite was far from
affording to the former all the gratification which he had anticipated
from its renewal. The coquetry--to designate it by no harsher term--of
Madame de Verneuil irritated the jealousy of the monarch, who could not
forget that she had taunted him with his advancing age, and who saw her
unblushingly encourage the admiration and attention of such of the
courtiers as she could induce to brave his displeasure; while her lavish
expenditure and unceasing demands, alike upon his patience and his
purse, involved him in perpetual difficulties with his finance minister,
which her extravagant attempts to assume the airs and to usurp the
privileges of quasi-royalty did not tend to diminish.

The French King was, in fact, at this period, the victim of his own
vices; the sovereign of a great and powerful nation, without a home or a
hearth, a wifeless husband, and a discontented lover; tenderly attached
to all his children, and yet unable to confer a favour upon the
offspring of one mother without incurring the resentment of the other;
and while feeling himself degraded by the thrall in which he lived,
totally devoid of the moral courage necessary for his escape from so
disgraceful a bondage.

It is in moments such as these that virtue and honour assert their
well-earned privileges without even the effort of enforcing them. Weary
of his perpetual discomfort, harassed by the heartless conduct of his
mistress, and pining for the mental repose which he so greatly needed,
Henry once more turned towards his wife as his only probable and
legitimate haven of rest; but hopeless of success through his own
agency, he again addressed himself to Sully for assistance and support.

Suddenly summoned by the monarch, the minister presented himself at the
Tuileries, where he found Henry in the orangery, in which he had taken
refuge from a shower of rain, pale, agitated, and anxious. The subject
of his reconciliation with the Queen was mooted on the instant, and he
repeatedly called upon Sully for his advice as to the best and surest
method of effecting it. Conscious that his counsels had hitherto been
either disregarded or rendered abortive by the King himself, the Duke
endeavoured to escape this new demand upon his patience, but Henry was

"Since then you command me to speak, Sire," he said at length, "I will
be frank. In order to accomplish the object which you have in view, you
can only pursue one course. Put the sea between yourself and four or
five individuals by whom you are now beset, and cause as many others to
pass the Alps."

"Your first suggestion is practicable," was the reply; "there is nothing
to prevent me from banishing the malcontents who are conspiring in my
very Court, but I am differently situated with regard to the Italians;
for, in addition to the hatred which I should draw down upon myself from
a nation proverbially vindictive, the Queen would never forgive an
affront offered to her favourites. In order to free myself from these
she must be induced herself to propose their return to their own
country, and I know no one more likely than you, Rosny, to effect an
object at once so desirable and so important. Make the attempt,
therefore; and should you succeed, I pledge myself from that moment to
abstain from every intrigue of gallantry. Reflect upon what I have
suggested in my turn, and consider the means by which this may be
accomplished with the least possible delay."

So saying, the King, after ascertaining that the weather had again
cleared, abruptly quitted the orangery, leaving M. de Sully perfectly
aghast at the new duty which had thus been suddenly thrust upon him.

As it was utterly impossible to propose such a measure to Marie de
Medicis as that of dismissing her most favoured attendants until a
perfect reconciliation had been effected between the royal couple, it
was to that object that the prudent minister first turned his attention;
and so successful did he ultimately prove, that after a brief
correspondence the King and Queen had an interview, during which the
whole of their recent misunderstanding was calmly discussed, and
declared by both parties to have been occasioned by the ill-judged
interference of those by whom they were severally surrounded; nor did
they separate until they had mutually pledged themselves to consign the
past to oblivion, and thenceforward to close their ears against all the
gossiping of the Court.

The effect produced by this matrimonial truce (for it was unfortunately
nothing more, and lasted only for the short space of three weeks) was of
the most happy description. Nothing was seen or heard of save projects
of amusement, which, not content with absorbing the present, extended
also into the future. This calm, like those by which it had been
preceded, was not, however, fated to realize the hopes of either party.
Henry was too much addicted to pleasure to fulfil his part of the
compact, while the Queen had, unhappily for her own peace, so long
accustomed herself to listen to the comments and complaints of her
favourites, that it was not long ere they found her as well disposed as
she had previously been to lend a willing ear to their communications.
In Madame de Verneuil they, of course, possessed a fruitful topic; and
as Marie, despite all her good resolutions, could not restrain her
curiosity with regard to the proceedings of this obnoxious personage,
she ere long betrayed her knowledge of the new affronts to which she had
been subjected by the Marquise.

The result of this unfortunate enlightenment was such as, from her
impulsive character, might justly have been anticipated. She no sooner
found herself in the society of the King than she once more assailed
him with invectives and reproaches which he was of no temper to brook;
and in this new dilemma Sully resolved, as a last and crowning effort to
establish peace, to suggest to Marie that as her happiness had again
been destroyed solely by the evil tongues about her, she should secure
to herself the gratitude and affection of her royal consort by
dismissing all her Italian household, and surrounding herself entirely
by French friends and attendants.

The indignation of the Queen at this proposal was beyond the reach of
all argument. She declared herself to be sufficiently unhappy separated
from her family, and neglected by her husband, without driving from her
presence, almost with ignominy, the few persons who still remained
faithful to her interests, and who sincerely sympathized in her
sufferings; and although the Duke ventured again and again to recur to
the subject, and always with the same earnestness, Marie continued to
reject his counsel as steadily as when it was first offered.[241]

The new attachment felt or feigned by the King for Mademoiselle de la
Bourdaisiere had again awakened her jealousy; and she complained with
equal reason that Henry, even while indulging in this new passion, made
no attempt to restrain the arrogance and bitterness of the forsaken
favourite. Nor was Madame de Verneuil less indignant than the Queen;
for even while affecting an extreme devotion, and surrounding herself
with ecclesiastics, who, not content with labouring to effect her
salvation, were also feeding her vanity with the most fulsome
panegyrics, she could ill brook to see herself so easily forgotten; and
once more she indulged in such indecent liberties with the name of Marie
de Medicis that the King, whose patience was the more easily exhausted
from the fact that he believed himself to be at last independent of her
fascinations, was again driven to resort to the assistance of M. de
Sully, in order to compel the restoration of the written promise of
marriage which he had been weak enough to place in her hands.

It was, indeed, impossible for the sovereign of a great nation longer to
temporize with an insolence which at this period had exceeded all
endurable limits; for not only did the Marquise assert, as she had
previously done, the illegality of the King's union with his wife, but
so thoroughly had her affected devotion wrought upon the minds of the
priests about her that several among them were induced to support her
pretended claim, and even publicly to declare the bans of marriage
between herself and the monarch.[242] Among these, two Capuchins, Father
Hilaire of Grenoble and Father Archange, her confessors, the last in
France, and the first in Rome, attached themselves recklessly to her
interests,[243] while at the same time numerous letters and pamphlets
were distributed in the capital, advocating her cause;[244] and so
dangerously active had the cabal become in the Eternal City that the
Cardinal d'Ossat considered it expedient to address a letter to the
French Government upon the subject, which implicated in this wild
conspiracy both the King of Spain and the Duke of Savoy, who, through
the agency of Father Hilaire, were represented as upholding the
pretensions of Madame de Verneuil. These circumstances, and especially
the notoriety of a fact which involved alike the dignity of her husband
and her own honour, so greatly exasperated the temper of the Queen that
she no longer attempted to control her irritation; and on one occasion
when, as was constantly the case, the pretended claim of the Marquise
became the subject of discord between the royal couple, Marie so
thoroughly forgot the respect which she owed to the King that she raised
her hand to strike him. Fortunately, however, for both parties, the Duc
de Sully, who was present during the altercation, and who instantly
detected her intention, sprang forward and seized her arm; but in his
haste he was compelled to do this so roughly that she afterwards
declared he had given her a blow, adding, however, that she was grateful
to him for having thus preserved her from a worse evil.

So great, indeed, was her sense of the obligation thus conferred, that
thenceforward Marie regarded the finance minister with more favour than
she had hitherto done; and occasionally requested his advice during her
misunderstandings with the King. She could not have chosen a safer
counsellor, for although Sully does not, in any instance, attempt to
disguise his dislike to the Tuscan princess, he was incapable of
betraying so sacred a trust; and if, as generally occurs in such cases,
his advice was frequently neglected, she never once had cause to
question its propriety.

A short time subsequent to the scene we have just described the Queen
sent to request the presence of the minister in her closet, where he
found her conversing with Concini, and evidently much excited. On his
entrance she informed him that she was weary of the infidelities of the
monarch; that the jealousy which he constantly kept alive alike
undermined her health and destroyed her happiness; and that she had
determined to follow the advice of her faithful servant, there present,
and to communicate to his Majesty certain advances which had been made
to her by some of the Court nobles, who were less insensible to her
attractions than the King himself.

This communication startled M. de Sully; and while he was endeavouring
to frame a reply by which he might remain uncompromised, Concini with
his usual presumption followed up the declaration of the Queen by
asserting his own conviction that it was the wisest measure which she
could adopt; as it would at once convince her royal consort that she
desired to keep nothing secret from him in which he was personally

This interruption afforded time for the Duke to collect his thoughts,
and heedless of the interference of the Italian, he remarked in his turn
that her Majesty must pardon him if he declined to offer any opinion on
so delicate a question, as it was one entirely beyond his province;
after which, resolutely changing the tone of the discourse, he continued
to converse with the Queen upon indifferent topics until Concini had
retired. Then, however, he voluntarily reverted to the subject which she
had herself mooted, and implored her to abandon her design; assuring her
that he had her interest too sincerely at heart to see her without
anxiety about to place herself in a position at once false and
dangerous, as such an assurance from her own lips could not fail to
excite in the breast of the King the greatest and most legitimate
suspicions; for every man of sense must at once feel that no individual,
be his rank what it might, would have dared to declare his passion to a
person of her exalted condition without having previously ascertained
that its expression would be agreeable to her, and having been tacitly
encouraged to do so; while, on the other hand, so far from discovering
any merit in such an avowal, or regarding it as a proof of confidence,
his Majesty would immediately decide that the motive by which she had
been actuated in making it must have been either the fear of discovery,
or a desire to rid herself of persons of whom she had become weary, in
order that she might be left at liberty to encourage new suitors; or
finally, that she had been urged to this unheard-of measure by
individuals who had obtained sufficient influence over her mind to
induce her to sacrifice her peace and her honour to their own

Happily for herself, Marie de Medicis admitted the validity of these
arguments, and abandoned her ill-advised intention; and she was the more
readily induced to do this from the assurance which she received from M.
de Sully that the restoration of the promise given to Madame de Verneuil
by the King was about to be enforced, and that she would consequently be
speedily relieved from the anxiety by which she had been so long
tormented. Nor was the pledge an idle one, as immediate measures were
adopted to effect this act of justice towards the Queen. The negotiation
was renewed by two autograph letters from the King himself, addressed
respectively to the Comte d'Entragues and the Marquise de Verneuil,
which were long preserved in the library of Joly de Fleury, but are now
supposed to be lost. Copies of both had been, however, fortunately taken
by the Abbe de l'Ecluse,[246] and as they are highly characteristic of
the monarch, and cannot fail to prove interesting to the reader, we
shall insert them at length.

To M. d'Entragues the King wrote as follows:

"M. d'Entragues, je vous envoye ce porteur pour me rapporter la promesse
que je vous baillay a Malesherbes je vous prys ne faillir de me la
renvoyer et si vous voulez me la rapporter vous mesme je vous diray les
raisons qui m'y poussent qui sont domestiques et non d'estat par
lesquelles vous direz que jay raison et reconnaitrez que vous avez ete
trompe, et que jay un naturel plutost trop bon que autrement, massurant
que vous obeyrez a mon commandement, je finirai vous assurant que je
suis votre bon mestre."

The letter addressed to Madame de Verneuil bears the same date, and runs

"Mademoiselle, lamour, Ihonneur et les bienfaits que vous avez recus de
moi, eussent arrete la plus legere ame du monde si elle n'eut point ete
accompagnee d'un mauvais naturel comme le vostre. Je ne vous picqueray
davantage bien que je le peusse et dusse fair, vous le savez: je vous
prie de me renvoyer la promesse que savez et ne me donnez point la peine
de la revoir par autre voye: renvoyez moi aussi la bague que je vous
rendis l'autre jour: voila le sujet de cette lettre, de laquelle je
veux avoir reponse a minuit."

These specimens of royal eloquence were unavailing; evasive answers were
returned by the King's messenger, and entreaties having proved
ineffectual, threats were subsequently substituted, upon which the
arrogant Marquise was ultimately induced to relinquish her claim to
ascend the throne of France, on condition that she should, at the moment
of delivering up the document, receive in exchange the sum of twenty
thousand silver crowns and the promise of a marshal's _baton_ for her
father the Comte d'Entragues, who had never been upon a field of battle.
This condition, onerous as it appears, was accepted; and the father of
the lady finally, but with evident reluctance, restored the pernicious
document to the King in the presence of the Comte de Soissons and the
Duc de Montpensier, MM. de Bellievre, de Sillery, de Maisse,[247] de
Jeannin, de Gevres,[248] and de Villeroy, by whom it was verified, and
who signed a declaration to this effect,[249] although it was afterwards
proved[250] that D'Entragues had only delivered into the hands of Henry
a well-executed copy of the paper, while he himself retained
the original.

This ceremony over, the Marquise was commanded to leave the Court, and
for a short time peace was perfectly restored. The King had already
become weary of his new conquest, and the hand of Mademoiselle de la
Bourdaisiere was bestowed upon a needy and complaisant courtier; but
still the absence of the brilliant favourite, despite all her insolence,
left a void in the existence of Henry which no legitimate affection
sufficed to fill, and it was consequently not long ere he became
enamoured of Mademoiselle de Bueil,[251] a young beauty who had recently
appeared at Court in the suite of the Princesse de Conde. The
extraordinary loveliness of the youthful orphan at once riveted the
attention of the King, and her own inexperience made her, in so
licentious a Court as that of Henri IV, an easy victim, so easy, indeed,
that the libertine monarch did not even affect towards her the same
consideration which he had shown to his former favourites, although her
extraordinary personal perfections sufficed to render her society at
this period indispensable to him.

It was not long ere the exiled favourite was apprised of this new
infidelity, yet such was her reliance upon her own power over the
passions of the King that she affected to treat it with contempt; but
although she scorned to admit that she could feel any dread of being
supplanted by a rival, after-events tended to prove that she was by no
means so indifferent to the circumstance as she endeavoured to appear,
and being as vindictive in her hate as she was unmeasured in her
ambition, she could not forgive the double insult which had been offered
to her pride. Forgetting the excesses of which she had been guilty, and
the forbearance of the King, not only towards her faults, but even
towards her vices, she determined on revenge, and unhappily she felt
that the means were within her reach.

The Comte d'Auvergne, although he had been a second time pardoned by
Henry, who was ever too ready to receive him into favour, and was wont
to declare that although he was a _prodigal son_ he could never make up
his mind to see the offspring of his King and brother-in-law perish upon
a scaffold,[252] was devotedly attached to his sister, and of an
intriguing spirit which delighted in every species of cabal and
conspiracy; while Francois de Balzac d'Entragues, her father,
overlooking the fact that he had himself become the husband of a woman
whose reputation was lost before their marriage, talked loudly of the
dishonour which the King had brought upon his family, and moreover
resented, with great reason, an attempt made by Henry to seduce his
younger daughter, Marie de Balzac.

For this lady, who subsequently became the mistress of Bassompierre, the
King conceived so violent a passion that, although at that period in his
fiftieth year, he did not hesitate to assume the disguise of a peasant
in order to meet her in the forest of Verneuil. The appointment had,
however, become known to M. d'Entragues, who, exasperated by this second
affront, and indignant at the persevering licentiousness of the monarch,
stationed himself with fifteen devoted adherents in different quarters
of the wood in order to take his life. Happily for Henry, he was well
mounted, and on being attacked, defended himself so resolutely that he
escaped almost by a miracle.

The disappointment of M. d'Entragues at this failure was so great that
he compelled his daughter to propose another meeting in a solitary spot
which he indicated, and where he made every preparation to secure the
assassination of the imprudent monarch; but although she despatched the
letter containing the assignation, Marie de Balzac found means to
apprise her royal lover of the reception which awaited him, and he
consequently failed to keep the appointment.[253] That the Comte
d'Entragues, twice foiled in his meditated vengeance, should lend
himself willingly to any conspiracy against the honour and life of his
sovereign, is consequently scarcely surprising, when we remember how
many nobles had in turn caballed against Henri IV with scarcely a
pretext for their disloyalty; and meanwhile Madame de Verneuil, fully
conscious of the hatred of Philip of Spain for the French King, had no
sooner resolved upon revenge than she at once turned her attention
towards that monarch, and by exciting his worst passions succeeded in
securing his support. She found an able and zealous coadjutor in Don
Balthazar de Zuniga, the Spanish Ambassador at the Court of France;
while her step-brother, the Comte d'Auvergne, was no less successful
with the Duke of Savoy, who, like Philip III, was never more happy than
when he discovered and profited by an opportunity of harassing the
French sovereign.

This conspiracy, as absurd as it was criminal, was, moreover, supported
by many of the discontented nobles who had never pardoned Henry for the
suppression of the League; and, wild as such a project cannot fail to
appear in these days, we have the authority of Amelot de la
Houssaye[254] for the fact that the Comte d'Auvergne had induced Philip
by a secret treaty to promise his assistance in placing Henri de
Bourbon, the son of Henri IV and Madame de Verneuil, on the throne of
France, to the detriment of the legitimate offspring of Marie
de Medicis.

In the act by which Philip bound himself thus to recognise the pretended
claim of the Marquise, he also gave a pledge to furnish her with five
hundred thousand livres in money, and to despatch the Spanish troops
which at that moment occupied Catalonia to support the disaffected
French subjects who might be induced to join the cabal in Guienne and

Report also said that M. d'Auvergne, not satisfied with this attempt to
undermine the throne of Henri IV, had formed a design against his life,
but the rumour obtained no credit even from his enemies.[255]

Whatever extenuation may be found for Madame de Verneuil in such an
attempt as this; whatever indulgence may be conceded to a woman baffled
in her ambition, misled by her confidence in a supposititious claim, and
urged on by a blind and uncalculating affection for her children, it is
difficult to find any excuse for the persevering ingratitude of her
step-brother. As regards M. d'Entragues, we have already shown that he
had more than sufficient cause for seeking revenge upon a monarch who
sacrificed every important consideration to the passion of the moment;
but the Comte d'Auvergne had experienced nothing save indulgence from
Henry, and it was consequently in cold blood that he organized a
conspiracy, which, had it succeeded, must have plunged the whole nation
into civil war. He was, moreover, the more culpable that he had, in
order to secure a pardon for his previous participation in the crime of
Biron, assured the too-credulous monarch, that in the event of his
restoration to favour, he would, if permitted to continue his
intercourse with Philip of Spain as unrestrictedly as heretofore, profit
by the facility thus afforded to him to reveal to his Majesty all the
secrets of the Spanish Government.

There can be no doubt that such a proposal must have startled and even
disgusted the frank nature of the French King; but it was nevertheless
too tempting to be rejected; and he himself avowed to Sully, when the
new conspiracy of D'Auvergne became known to him, that it was less by
the prayers of the culprit's sister, and by his own consideration for
the children whom she had borne to him, than in the hope that he might,
through the medium of the Count, be enabled to counteract the measures
of his most subtle and dangerous enemy, that he had been induced on that
occasion to pardon his disloyalty.[256]

By this unwise and ill-calculated concession the King had afforded an
opportunity to the restless and disaffected noble of pursuing a
correspondence with Philip as dangerous as it was convenient. Couriers
were permitted to come and go unquestioned; and it was not long ere
every measure of the French Cabinet was as intimately known at Madrid as
it was in the Privy Council of Henry himself. This evil was, moreover,
increased by the unconditional pardon which had enabled M. d'Auvergne,
after his strange and degrading offer, to return to the Court; and he
profited so eagerly by the opportunity which was thus afforded to him
that he had little difficulty in convincing the false and vindictive
Philip that the moment was at length come in which he might overthrow
the power of the sovereign whom he hated.

M. de Lomenie, however, who, unaware of the promise made by the Count to
Henry, became uneasy at the constant communication which the former
maintained with the Court of Spain, at length determined to satisfy
himself as to its nature, and for this purpose he intercepted some

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