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

Part 7 out of 7

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which must, after all these gracious promises, have tended to startle
Mademoiselle de Montmorency, by demanding to know if she personally
desired the marriage, as, should it be otherwise, she need only confess
the truth with frankness, when he would break off the match, and procure
for her an alliance more to her taste; adding that he was even willing
to bestow her hand upon his own nephew the Prince de Conde. In reply the
Princess modestly but firmly assured his Majesty that as her union with
M. de Bassompierre was the wish of her father, she felt convinced that
her destiny would be a happy one; and there can be no doubt that she
said this more emphatically than she had intended, as, from that moment,
Henry became convinced that she really loved her intended husband, and
he resolved in consequence to prevent the marriage.

Unhappily for all parties, the monarch appeared to have forgotten that
he had reached his fifty-sixth year, that he was rapidly becoming a
martyr to the gout, and that he was no longer calculated to enter into a
successful rivalry with his younger and more attractive nobility; a
delusion which was unfortunately encouraged, according to Mezeray, by
his confidential friends, the relatives of the lady, and even the
members of the Queen's household, who, in the hope of at length
triumphing over his former favourites, exerted themselves to increase
his passion for the daughter of the Connetable;[397] a passion which
they moreover doubtless imagined could not, from the high rank and
peculiar position of Mademoiselle de Montmorency, exceed the limits of
propriety. The intentions of Henry himself were, however, as was
subsequently proved, of a far less innocuous tendency than those for
which others so erroneously gave him credit. At eight o'clock on the
following morning he sent for Bassompierre, and having caused the
attendants to leave the room, he motioned him to kneel down upon the
cushion beside his bed, when he assured him that he had been thinking
seriously of the propriety of his taking a wife.

"Ah! Sire," said the delighted courtier, perfectly unsuspicious of the
real meaning of the monarch, "had not the same unlucky disease under
which your Majesty is also suffering attacked the Connetable, I should
ere this have been a husband."

"No," was the hurried reply, as the King looked steadfastly at his
intended victim, "such is not my meaning. What I desire is to bestow
upon you the hand of Mademoiselle d'Aumale, and by this means to revive
the duchy of Aumale in your favour."

"But I am betrothed, Sire, and cannot take a second wife!"

"Bassompierre," said Henry with an emotion which he was unable to
conceal, "I have become passionately attached to Mademoiselle de
Montmorency. If you marry her and she loves you, you will be the object
of my hatred; while should I, under such circumstances, induce her to
love me, you would hate me in your turn. You are aware of my attachment
towards yourself, and it will be far better to avoid this risk by not
placing either party in so trying a position. As regards the lady, I
have resolved upon uniting her to my nephew the Prince de Conde, and
keeping her at Court. Her presence and intercourse will be the charm and
amusement of the old age which is fast creeping upon me. I shall give to
my nephew, who is young and who prefers a thousand times a hunt to a
lady's love, a hundred thousand francs a year with which to amuse
himself, and all that I shall ask of his wife in return will be the
affection of a child."

The habits and manners of the Court at that age admitted but of one
reply to this cold and selfish declaration. Bassompierre pressed his
lips upon the hand which lay upon the velvet coverlet, and assured the
King that it had ever been the desire of his life to find an opportunity
of sacrificing his own happiness to that of his Majesty; that he did not
seek to deny the extent of his disappointment; but that he nevertheless
voluntarily pledged himself never again to renew a suit which
counteracted the views and wishes of his sovereign, and trusted that
this new passion might be productive of as much delight to his Majesty
as the loss of such a bride must have grieved himself, had he not been
amply consoled by the consciousness of having merited the confidence
of his King.

"Then," he says, with a _naivete_ at which it is impossible to suppress
a smile, "the King embraced me, and wept, assuring me that he would
further my fortunes as though I were one of his natural children, that
he loved me dearly, as I must be well assured, and that he would reward
my frankness and friendship." [398]

On quitting the royal presence, the discomfited courtier hastened to
confide his sorrows to M. d'Epernon, who endeavoured to console him with
the assurance that the King's passion for Mademoiselle de Montmorency
was a mere passing caprice, as well as his declared intention of
marrying her to the Prince de Conde; reminding him, moreover, that as
the admiration of the monarch for the young lady had already become
matter of notoriety, it was highly improbable that M. de Conde would,
under the circumstances, accept her as a wife. The worthy minister had,
however, forgotten that the Prince was entirely dependent upon his royal
relative; that he had not yet been invested with any government or
official post; and that he was young, ambitious, and high-spirited.
Bassompierre bears testimony to his possession of the latter quality by
his assurance that, important as the favour of the monarch could not
fail to be to the young Prince in his peculiar position, he did not
finally give his personal consent to the alliance until he had obtained
a solemn declaration from Henry of the perfect purity of his
proffered bride.

It is very singular that throughout all the details given of this affair
by contemporary writers, no mention is made of the measures adopted by
the King to induce or to enforce the violation of the plighted word of
the Connetable to Bassompierre. Even he himself is totally silent upon
the subject, whence we are compelled to infer that the will of the
sovereign was considered to be beyond appeal, and that his sole pleasure
exonerated the Duc de Montmorency from his voluntary engagement. The
whole transaction, indeed, is so entangled and incomprehensible,
particularly when the high rank of all the persons concerned in it is
considered, that it betrays an amount of recklessness and tyranny on the
part of the King which it is difficult to realize in our own times.

Mezeray asserts that it was in order to compel the affections of
Mademoiselle de Montmorency through her gratitude, that Henry resolved
to unite her to the first Prince of the Blood, and thus elevate her to
the highest rank at Court save that of the Queen.[399] Be this as it
may, it is certain that he prevailed over the reluctance of both
parties, and that a week subsequently to the interview described the
Prince de Conde declared his willingness to accept the bride proposed to
him by the sovereign; while having a short time afterwards met a number
of the great nobles at the levee of the King, he personally invited them
to assist at his betrothal that same evening. Among others he thus
addressed Bassompierre, who replied only by a low and ceremonious
salutation. Henry had, however, remarked the circumstance, and
beckoning the Marquis to his side, he inquired what had passed
between them.

"Monseigneur suggested, Sire, a step which I am not inclined to take."

"And what was that?" demanded the King.

"That I should accompany him to witness his betrothal. Is he not old
enough to go alone? and can he not be affianced without my presence? For
thus much I can answer, that if he have no other companion than myself,
his suite will be a small one."

"Nevertheless, Bassompierre, you must be there," said Henry imperiously.

"I cannot, Sire," expostulated his companion. "I entreat of you not to
insist on my compliance, as I shall be driven to disobey you. Let it
suffice that I have sacrificed a passion which had become the very
principle of my existence in order to secure your peace and happiness,
and do not ask me to become the witness of my own bitter

"The King, who was the best of men," pursues the chronicler, "simply
replied: 'I plainly see, Bassompierre, that you are angry, but I feel
sure that you will not fail when you remember that it was my nephew, the
first Prince of the Blood, by whom you were invited.'"

Further expostulation was impossible, and Bassompierre saw himself
compelled to drain even to the very dregs his cup of mortification. The
ceremony took place in the gallery of the Louvre with almost fabulous
pomp. Mademoiselle de Montmorency was attended by all the Princesses of
the Blood, and took her place immediately beside the Queen, while the
Prince stood upon the right hand of the King; who, being still feeble,
with a refinement of cruelty which it is equally difficult to explain
and to justify, selected Bassompierre upon whom to lean, and thus kept
him throughout the whole of the ceremonial in the immediate vicinity of
the affianced pair.

A few days after the ceremony a ballet was danced at the Arsenal in
honour of the event, at which their Majesties and all the Court were
present; and on Shrove Tuesday a tilting at the ring took place, where
Mademoiselle de Montmorency delivered the prize to the victor. The
Queen, who had remarked with apprehension the growing passion of her
royal consort for the young Princess, was overjoyed at the contemplated
marriage, believing as she did that she must have been self-deluded, as
it was beyond credibility that, had she been correct in her surmises,
Henry would have sought to unite the object of his preference to his own
nephew. Thus, therefore, she overwhelmed the bride-elect with the most
condescending kindness, and even arranged a ballet in her honour in
which she herself appeared. "It was," says Bassompierre, "at once the
most beautiful and the last in which she ever danced." [400]

On Tuesday the 10th of March the marriage took place at Chantilly in the
presence of their Majesties and the whole Court; and if the cheek of the
bride were pale, and the lip of the gallant Bassompierre trembled,
during the ceremony which made Charlotte de Montmorency the wife of
another, all the other actors in the brilliant drama were too fully
occupied with their respective parts to heed the silent emotion of the
sufferers. The King presented as his offering to the lady two thousand
crowns for the purchase of her _trousseau_, and jewels of the value of
eighteen thousand livres; while he gave to the Prince a large amount
both in plate and money.[401] The Queen was also profuse in her
generosity, and several days were spent in the most splendid
festivities, after which the royal party returned to Paris, whither they
were shortly followed by the Prince and Princesse de Conde, on whose
arrival a grand ball was given by the ex-Queen Marguerite, where Henry
was once more enthralled by the exquisite dancing of the graceful bride,
and so unequivocally betrayed his admiration as to renew all the
slumbering apprehensions of the unfortunate Queen.

It was soon evident, however, that M. de Conde was by no means prepared
to lend-himself to the licentious views of the King, and he maintained
so strict a guard over his beautiful young wife that neither sarcasm nor
reproach could induce him to relax his vigilance. This opposition only
served to aggravate the unhappy passion of the monarch, while the
indignation of the Prince and the anger of the Queen were, although from
a different motive, similarly excited; and in the month of July, during
the festivities which took place on the marriage of the Duc de Vendome
with Mademoiselle de Mercoeur, the advances of the monarch to the wife
of his nephew became so undisguised that the latter openly resented so
great an insult to his honour; a crime for which he was immediately
punished by the revocation of all the grants made to him on the occasion
of his marriage, and he was thus reduced to comparative poverty.[402]
This extreme and wanton severity produced a diametrically opposite
effect to that which had been anticipated by the King, the Prince
instantly feeling that he had been wronged as well as insulted; while
the Queen, alarmed by the evident progress of this new and fatal
passion, which must, should it ultimately prove successful, overwhelm
the monarch with disgrace and remorse from the near consanguinity of the
parties, did not fail to urge upon M. de Conde in the most energetic
manner the necessity of preserving alike his own honour and that of the
King by removing his wife from the Court. This advice found support on
all sides, as those who made it a matter of conscience trembled at the
idea of the scandal which must ensue; while others, who merely sought to
annoy the sovereign without any regard for his reputation, still saw
their purpose answered by the proposed departure of the Princess.

Difficult as it was for the Prince to consent to a separation from his
beautiful young bride, the perseverance of Henry soon convinced him that
he had no other alternative, and he accordingly caused her to quit the
capital, and to take up her temporary abode at Saint-Valery; but the
remonstrances of the monarch were so earnest, and he succeeded so
thoroughly in concealing his indignation against M. de Conde personally,
that for a time he flattered himself that he should be enabled to effect
her recall. Upon this point, however, the Prince was firm; and as day
after day went by without eliciting the obedience which he had
anticipated, the entreaties of the King were exchanged for threats. Nor
did Henry rest satisfied even with this show of displeasure towards his
young kinsman, for, resolved to ascertain if he should not be more
favourably received by the Princess herself, he assumed a disguise, and
proceeded with a few attendants to the place of her retreat in order to
obtain an interview. On ascertaining this fact M. de Conde removed her
to Muret, but the pursuit of the King was so resolute that the harassed
bridegroom ultimately found himself compelled to choose between his ruin
and his dishonour.[403]

His first measure was to change the residence of the Princess from
Saint-Valery to his chateau at Breteuil, and to expostulate with her
upon the encouragement which she gave by her levity to the advances of
the monarch; but as some time passed without any further cause for
alarm, the Prince at length began to feel greater confidence, and in the
month of November joined a hunting expedition which compelled him to
absent himself from his wife, a circumstance that was forthwith
communicated to Henry, who immediately assumed a second disguise and
proceeded to Breteuil. M. de Conde had, however, been careful to
establish a strict watch over his household, and being apprised in his
turn of the royal visit, he suddenly returned, and the disappointed
monarch was compelled to leave the chateau.

Madame de Verneuil, to whom the adventure was soon made known, and who,
despite the extreme precariousness of her position, never failed to
revenge herself upon the King whenever an opportunity presented itself,
related the whole story in his presence during a Court reception, only
suppressing the name of the adventurous lover; an indiscretion which so
offended and alarmed the Prince that he determined to emancipate himself
from the threatened disgrace.[404]

He felt that he had but one alternative, for he was too high-spirited to
condescend to disgrace, whatever might be the penalty of his resistance;
and driven at length to an expedient which wounded his pride, but which
he found it impossible to reject, he affected to be determined by the
anger of the monarch, and requested permission to go in person to
conduct the Princess back to Court. This was instantly and joyfully
conceded, and M. de Conde no sooner found himself free to act than he
set forth; but, instead of returning to Paris as Henry had anxiously
anticipated, he took the precaution to have relays of post-horses
secretly secured all along the road to the Low Countries.[405]

On his arrival at Muret the Prince lost not a moment in causing the
Princess to enter a carriage drawn by eight horses which he had provided
for the purpose, and at once proceeded to Flanders by way of Artois. The
dread of dishonour, coupled with the fear of arrest upon the road, lent
wings to his speed; and without once alighting the Prince and his fair
companion reached Landrecies;[406] the entire suite of the first Prince
and Princess of the Blood comprising on this occasion only Messieurs de
Rochefort and de Tournay, and Mademoiselle de Certeau, with a valet and
a femme-de-chambre, who followed on horseback.

The news of their flight reached Fontainebleau on the following evening,
while the Queen was still convalescent (having given birth to her third
and last daughter, Henriette Marie, on the 26th of November), and the
King was endeavouring to employ the interval which must ensue before the
arrival of the Princess by pursuing with renewed ardour his favourite
pastime. Pimentello, the hated of Sully, had returned to Court, and the
play was consequently "fast and furious." It was in the very height of
this maddening excitement, when he was surrounded by piles of gold, and
devotees as earnest as himself at the same shrine discreetly assembled
in his private closet, that Henry, whose spirits were exalted by his
hopes, and who was risking sum after sum with a recklessness which would
have taken away the breath of his finance minister, received from M.
d'Elbene,[407] and subsequently from his lieutenant of police, the
important and mortifying intelligence that his destined prey had escaped
him. The agitation which the King exhibited when convinced of the truth
of this report exceeded any that he had hitherto evinced even upon the
most important occasions, and hastily rising from the table, he murmured
in the ear of Bassompierre who was seated next to him, "Ah! my friend, I
am lost. The man has taken his wife into the depths of a forest. I know
not if it be to escape with her from France, or to put her to death.
Take care of my money, and keep up the play until I have procured more
certain and detailed information." [408]

From his closet Henry proceeded to the last place on earth which might,
under the circumstances, have been anticipated. He went straight to the
chamber of the Queen, where her Majesty was still unable to leave her
bed, and there he gave full scope to the anguish under which he was
labouring. "Never," says Bassompierre, "did I see a man so lost or so
overcome." In the room were also assembled the Marquis de Coeuvres,[409]
the Comte de Cramail, and MM. d'Elbene and de Lomenie, with whom he
unscrupulously discussed, in the presence of his outraged wife, the
readiest means of compelling the immediate return of the fugitives. As
may naturally be anticipated, the advice likely to prove the most
flattering to his wishes was offered on all sides, and a thousand
expedients were suggested and discussed only to be found unfeasible,
until the King, in despair, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour,
resolved upon summoning his ministers. Accordingly MM. de Sillery, de
Villeroy, de Jeannin, and de Sully soon joined the party, which had,
moreover, been augmented by the presence of several of the most
confidential friends of the monarch, among others by De Gevres,[410] De
la Force,[411] and La Varenne; and once more the King sought a solution
of the difficulty. Here, however, the judgment and policy of the several
councillors differed upon every point. The Chancellor gave it as his
opinion that a strong declaration should be made against the step taken
by the Prince himself, and another equally stringent against those by
whom he should be aided and abetted in his evasion; M. de Villeroy
advised that despatches should forthwith be forwarded to the several
ambassadors of the French King at foreign Courts to warn the sovereigns
of those states against receiving the fugitive Prince within their
territories, and to exhort them to take measures for enforcing his
return to France; M. de Jeannin declared that the most expeditious
method of compelling obedience, and forestalling the inconvenience and
scandal of the self-expatriation of the first Prince of the Blood, would
be to cause him to be immediately followed by a captain of the
bodyguard, instructed to expostulate with him on his disloyalty and
imprudence, and to threaten instant war against any state by whom he
should be harboured; while when Sully at length spoke it was only to
deprecate each and all of these measures, by which he insisted that the
monarch would give an importance to the departure of the Prince that his
enemies would but too gladly turn to their own account; whereas, if he
made no comment upon the flight of M. de Conde, and treated it as a
matter without importance, he would at once render him insignificant in
the eyes of those sovereigns who would fain look upon him as a martyr,
and use him as a means to harass and annoy his own monarch.

Henry was, however, too much excited to defer to the sober reasonings of
his finance minister, and declared that he would suffer no petty prince
to harbour the first noble of his kingdom without resenting so gross an
affront. The advice of Jeannin suited his views far better, and he
accordingly despatched M. de Praslin on the following day to Landrecies
with a peremptory order for the return of the fugitives. His messenger
was met by a firm refusal on the part of the Prince; upon which, finding
that his expostulations were of no avail, he proceeded, as he had been
ordered, to Brussels, where, in an interview with the Archduke
Albert,[412] he delivered to him the message of his sovereign, and
explained the danger of the position in which he would personally be
placed should he venture to oppose the royal will.

This intelligence greatly embarrassed the Archduke, who had already
given to M. de Rochefort an assurance of the readiness with which he
would offer an asylum to the princely fugitives; but as M. de Praslin
continued to press upon him the certain indignation of the French
monarch should he venture to receive them at his Court, his previous
resolution gave way; and he hastened to despatch a messenger to
Landrecies to decline the honour proffered to him by M. de Conde, but at
the same time to assure him of a safe passage through his territories.
On the receipt of this unexpected prohibition the self-exiled Prince,
who had gone too far to recede, had no other alternative than to proceed
through the duchy of Juliers to Cologne; in which, being a free city,
and perfectly neuter in the affairs of France and Spain, the chief
magistrate granted him permission to reside.

Although the Prince de Conde had been refused a retreat in Flanders, the
Archduke willingly yielded to the request of the Princess that she might
be permitted to reside for a time in Brussels, until the final abode of
her husband should be decided; and she accordingly arrived in that city
under his escort, where the illustrious couple were received with great
ceremony and cordiality by the Papal Nuncio and the other dignitaries of
the town. Their arrival was no sooner known than Philip of Orange and
his Princess (the sister of M. de Conde) hastened from Breda to welcome
them; and they were followed a few days afterwards by the Archduke and
Archduchess, by whom the royal fugitives were entertained with all the
honour due to their exalted rank, and their unmerited misfortunes. The
Prince then took his departure for Cologne, while the fair cause of his
flight remained in the Flemish capital under the protection of her
new friends.

Marie de Medicis had, meanwhile, no sooner ascertained that the embassy
of M. de Praslin had been successful, and that the self-expatriated pair
had been denied a refuge in the Low Countries, than she addressed a
letter to the Marquis de Spinola, entreating him to cause a revocation
of the denial, and representing how entirely her domestic peace depended
upon the absence of the Princesse de Conde; an absence which could not
fail to be abridged by the necessity of residing in a city like Cologne,
where the ardent spirit of the Prince could not but revolt at the tedium
around him. The effect of her appeal was all that she had anticipated,
strengthening as it did the preconceived measures of the confidential
minister of Philip III, who hastened to represent to that monarch the
gross error into which the Archduke had fallen, and the favourable
opportunity which he had thus lost of retorting upon Henry the
protection that he had accorded to Don Antonio Perez, a traitor to his
sovereign and to his country; and of securing to the Court of Spain the
advantage which it must have derived from having in its power, and
securing to its interests, the first Prince of the Blood in France. His
arguments proved conclusive, the jealousy of Philip always prompting
him to lend a willing ear to every project by which he might be enabled
to accomplish any triumph over the French monarch; and accordingly
instructions were forwarded to the Archduke to repair his fault without
delay, by inviting the Prince to rejoin his bride at Brussels. Little as
the sovereign of the Low Countries was disposed to involve himself in a
war with France, he did not hesitate to comply with the injunction. He
placed so firm a reliance on the support of Spain in the event of
hostilities, and had been so long accustomed to conform to her counsels,
that he immediately made known to M. de Conde his change of resolution,
and declared himself ready to receive him whenever he should see fit to
return to his territories; while at the same time he wrote to apprise
the French King of what he had done, assuring him that the permission
granted to the fugitive Prince involved no want of respect for himself
or of deference to his wishes, but had been accorded in the full
persuasion of his ultimate approval.

The Spanish minister also despatched a messenger to the Prince,
declaring that he was at liberty to take up his abode in the Low
Countries, where he would be treated in a manner worthy of his birth and
dignity, and, under the protection of the King his master, be assured of
safety and respect. M, de Conde gladly availed himself of this
permission, and a short time subsequently established himself in the
palace of his sister, the Princess of Orange.

Enraged at this open violation of his wishes, and still reluctant to
commence a war which he was conscious would rather owe its origin to
private feeling than to national expediency, Henry resolved, as a last
resource, to invest M. de Coeuvres with full powers to treat with the
revolted Prince; and for this purpose he furnished him with an autograph
letter, in which he assured the fugitive of an unreserved pardon in the
event of his immediate return to France; but threatened, should he
persist in his contumacy, to declare him guilty of the crime of
_lese-majeste._ M. de Conde simply replied to this missive by a
declaration of his innocence, and his respect for the person of the
King, and by protesting against all that might be done to prejudice his
interests; nor did the interviews which took place between himself and
the royal envoy prove more satisfactory, although the Marquis exerted
all his eloquence to induce him to comply with the will of the
sovereign. Moreover, the letter of Henry, instead of exciting his
confidence, had rendered the Prince more suspicious than ever of the
designs of the monarch; and he accordingly left Brussels, where he no
longer considered himself safe, at the end of February (1610), and took
refuge at Milan with the Conde de Fuentes, the governor of that city.

More than one rumour had meanwhile reached the Archduchess that Madame
de Conde was by no means so indifferent to the degrading passion of the
King as was befitting to her honour, and the Princess was accordingly
soon made sensible that her sojourn at Brussels had degenerated into a
species of ceremonious imprisonment. Naturally vain and volatile,
dazzled by the consciousness that she had become a sort of heroine, and
moreover saddened by her memories of the brilliant existence from which
she had been so suddenly shut out, the widowed bride would gladly have
followed her husband to the gayer city of Milan, even wounded as she was
by his indifference and coldness, rather than remain at the austere
Court of the pious Infanta, where she was aware that her words and
actions were subjected to the closest scrutiny; but the will of her
father compelled her to remain at Brussels, the Connetable being
apprehensive, from the marked neglect and suspicion evinced towards her
by the Prince, that this latter might endeavour to remove her beyond the
reach of her friends in order to hold her more completely in his power.
Under this impression her father had consequently insisted upon her
residence at the Archducal Court, and had instructed her to solicit the
influence of the Infanta, and to employ every means in her own power, to
prevent M. de Conde from effecting her removal in the event of his
finding it himself expedient to leave Flanders.

Not satisfied with this precaution, moreover, M. de Montmorency also
demanded an audience of the King, in which he laid before him the
apprehensions that he entertained; and finally he entreated his
Majesty's permission to compel his daughter to return to France, and to
take up her residence with the Duchesse d'Angouleme, her aunt.

Henry made a ready and gracious reply to this request, and before he
finally retired from the royal closet, the Connetable asked and obtained
the royal sanction to authorize the Marquis de Coeuvres to concert with
him some scheme for carrying off the Princess.

M. de Coeuvres had no sooner received these instructions than he
admitted to his confidence Madame de Berny, the wife of the French
Ambassador at the Flemish Court (who from political reasons was himself
kept in ignorance of the plot), and M. de Chateauneuf,[413] who was at
that period residing in Brussels on a special mission from his
Government; and the quasi-conspirators were not long ere they flattered
themselves that their success was certain.

Near the palace of the Prince of Orange, in which Madame de Conde had
taken up her residence, was a breach in the city wall by which it was
easy to descend into the moat; and it was decided that the Princess
should effect her escape from this point during the night. Saddled
horses were to be prepared for herself and her retinue near the outer
bank of the ditch, and nothing remained undecided save the moment of her
evasion. She was to proceed at all speed to Pontarme, where a relay of
fresh horses and an armed escort were to await her arrival, and similar
arrangements were to be made throughout the whole of the route to
Rocroy. Finally, the precise night of her flight was decided on; and
this had no sooner been determined than M. de Coeuvres despatched a
courier to the Connetable, informing him that there now remained no
doubt of the immediate return of the Princess to his protection.

This intelligence reached Paris on the Wednesday, and the following
Saturday was the period fixed for the projected evasion, a fact which M.
de Montmorency had no sooner ascertained than he hastened to communicate
the success of M. de Coeuvres to the King. Henry was overjoyed, and in
the fulness of his satisfaction was guilty of an indiscretion which was
fated to overthrow his hopes; for, believing that in so short a time no
effectual measures could be taken to frustrate the plot, he was
incautious enough to confide the whole conspiracy to the Queen, who was
still an invalid, not having yet recovered from the birth of her third
daughter.[414] Agitated and alarmed, Marie listened to the narrative
with an earnest attention, which only tended to render her royal consort
more communicative than he might otherwise have been; and, in the excess
of his self-gratulation, he moreover exhibited such unequivocal proofs
of the interest which he personally felt in the result of the evasion,
that she at once resolved to prevent the reappearance of the Princess in
France. The King had accordingly no sooner quitted her apartment than
she desired Madame Concini to bring her kinsman the Nuncio Ubaldini to
her private closet without losing an instant, a command which was so
zealously obeyed by her favourite that she was enabled, after a
prolonged conference with this ecclesiastic, to despatch a courier
secretly to Spinola the same night to acquaint him with the projected
design, and to entreat him to frustrate it should there yet be time.

The royal messenger travelled so rapidly that he reached Brussels at
eleven o'clock on the morning of Saturday, and Spinola had no sooner
read the despatch than he hastened to communicate its contents to the
Archduke and the Infanta, who instantly sent a company of the light
horse of the bodyguard to possess themselves of all the approaches to
the palace of the Prince of Orange. This done, their Imperial Highnesses
next caused several state carriages to be prepared, which were placed
under the charge of one of the principal officers of their household,
who received directions to invite Madame de Conde in their joint names
to take immediate possession of a suite of rooms in the Archducal palace
which they desired to appropriate to her use and that of her suite, as
better suited to the dignity of her high rank than those which she then
inhabited. He was, moreover, instructed to accept no denial, but to
insist upon the compliance of the Princess; and thus armed the courtier
proceeded to the Hotel d'Orange, where he communicated the subject of
his mission to Madame de Conde in the presence of her two confidants.
The consternation of the whole party may be imagined when, just as they
conceived themselves secure of success, they thus discovered that their
design had been betrayed; nor was it until the Princess had exhausted
every subterfuge she could invent that she found herself compelled to
accompany the Archducal envoy. It was in vain that she represented the
greater propriety of her residence under the roof of her husband's
sister during that husband's absence; she was assured that she would
find the palace equally eligible and far more worthy of her occupation.
She then pleaded her reluctance to intrude further upon the splendid
hospitality of her princely hosts; her objection was met by an assurance
that so eager were the sovereigns to receive her as a guest that they
were even at that moment waiting in the greatest anxiety to bid her
welcome, an intimation which served to convince Madame de Conde that she
had no alternative save to submit to this polite tyranny, and that upon
the instant. She accordingly summoned her attendants, and without having
been permitted to hold any private communication with her equally
discomfited friends, she entered the carriage assigned to her, and was
rapidly driven-to the palace.[415]

The indignation of the Prince de Conde equalled the mortification of the
King when he learnt the failure of the projected evasion; while the
Marquis de Coeuvres and M. de Berny demanded an audience of the
Archduke, at which they loudly complained of the insults to which the
Princess had been subjected, and which were, as they alleged, calculated
to strengthen the odious suspicions that had already been generated
against the King their master. M. de Berny, who was entirely ignorant of
the plot, was naturally the loudest in his denunciations of the violence
offered to Madame de Conde, and the species of captivity to which she
was condemned, when she had been led to expect nothing but consideration
for her rank and sympathy for her misfortunes. He, moreover, assured the
Archduke that nothing could be more wild and absurd than the idea of her
flight, warmly demanding wherefore she was likely to leave a capital
wherein she had hitherto been so well and so generously received.

The genuine indignation of the Ambassador produced as little effect upon
the Archduke as the laboured arguments of M. de Coeuvres, and he
contented himself by courteously regretting that an attention, intended
to convey to the Princess the extent of the respect and friendship with
which she had inspired him, should have been so ill-interpreted, adding,
moreover, that far from disapproving the step which he had taken, he
felt convinced that the French King would recognize in it only his
earnest desire to do honour to the first Princess of the Blood. Further
argument was useless, the imperturbable composure of the Archduke
totally overpowering the wordy violence of his interlocutors, who were
eventually compelled to withdraw without having effected the
restoration of Madame de Conde. On the return of the Marquis de Coeuvres
to Paris, Henry, still believing that the Archduke would not venture to
brave his displeasure by any further opposition to his will, accredited
M. de Preau[416] to the Court of Brussels, with instructions to demand
the immediate return of the Princess in the joint names of the Duke her
father and Madame d'Angouleme her aunt; but this new procuration was met
by the Austrian Prince with the announcement that he had pledged himself
to M. de Conde not to permit the Princess to leave Brussels without his
consent, and that he consequently could not without dishonour forfeit
his plighted word.

Exasperated by a firmness for which he was unprepared, and satisfied
that the support of the Spanish Cabinet could alone have induced the
Archduke thus to drive him to extremities, Henry at once resolved no
longer to delay the hostilities which he had long meditated against
Spain, and to which he was now urged as much by private feeling as by
state policy. A sufficient pretext offered itself, moreover, in the
efforts which had been made by several of the German Princes to possess
themselves of the duchies of Cleves and Juliers; the death of Jean
Guillaume, Duc de Cleves, Juliers, and Bergh, Comte de la Mark, and Lord
of Ravenstein, which had occurred on the 25th of March, and the
numerous claims made upon his succession, having rendered the ultimate
disposition of his duchy a matter of extreme importance to Henry, who
was reluctant to strengthen the power of Austria by permitting this
increase of territory to pass definitely into her hands,[417] as it had
already partially done, the Emperor having hastened to place the duchy
under sequestration.

The petty sovereigns thus despoiled protested energetically against such
an usurpation, and several among them had even entreated the protection
of France, to the great gratification of Henri IV, who thus found
himself doubly armed, as his interference on behalf of the aggrieved
Princes assured their cooperation in his own project of recovering from
the Emperor the provinces of Franche-Comte and Flanders, which had been
in the possession of Spain since the time of Charles V, and which had
formed, as we have elsewhere stated, the dowry of the Infanta on her
marriage with the Archduke Albert. Thus in the eyes of Europe the French
King was about to engage in this new war simply to enforce justice to
himself and his allies; but it was so evident to all who considered the
subject that these pretensions might have been put down at once by the
slightest show of resistance on his own part, and that so comparatively
unimportant a campaign might prudently have been entrusted to one of his
many able generals, that when it became known that an army of forty
thousand infantry, six thousand Swiss, the bodyguard, and a corps of
four thousand mounted nobles, together with a strong park of artillery,
were about to take the field under the command of the King in person,
there were few individuals acquainted with the circumstances which we
have just narrated who did not feel convinced that the monarch was
rather about to undertake a crusade for the deliverance of the Princesse
de Conde than a war for the preservation of his territories.

This opinion was, moreover, strengthened by the fact that throughout all
these hostile preparations Henry did not discontinue his negotiations
for the return of Madame de Conde to France. He pleaded the authority of
her father, the anxiety of her more than mother the Duchesse
d'Angouleme, his own authority over his subjects, the inclination of the
Princess herself to be once more under the protection of her family; but
all these pretexts signally failed. Yet neither Henry nor his agent M.
de Preau would yield to discouragement; passion on the one hand, and
ambition on the other, lent them strength to persevere; and having
exhausted their first scheme of attack, they next represented the
necessity of her presence at the approaching coronation of the Queen,
where it was important that she should occupy the position suited to her
rank as first Princess of the Blood; and next they alleged the
impossibility of furthering her views in the separation from her husband
which she was about to demand, unless she were enabled personally to
expose her reasons to the Parliament. Moreover, Madame de Conde had
written to the French ministers to complain of violence and
imprisonment, and the King insisted upon the necessity of her

De Preau, however, zealous as he was, made no impression upon the
firmness of the Archduke. The Spanish Cabinet had rendered itself
responsible for his opposition, and he defied the menaces of France, a
circumstance which decided Henry upon immediate war. The resolution
which he had taken of heading the army in person determined him, before
his departure from France, solemnly to invest the Queen with the title
of Regent during his absence; but the precautions which he took to name
an efficient Council by whom she was to be assisted in the government of
the kingdom excited the indignation and resentment of her personal
favourites, especially of Concini, who thus saw himself rendered
powerless when he had hoped to assert his influence and to improve his
fortunes; and under the pressure of this disappointment he hastened to
represent to his royal mistress the utter emptiness of the dignity with
which Henry proposed to invest her.

"You are an uncrowned Queen," he said, "and you are about to become a
powerless Regent. Thus, Madame, you will be known by two high-sounding
titles, neither of which will in reality appertain to you. Cause
yourself to be crowned, and then you will indeed possess the authority
which is your due and the honour of which you have heretofore been
unjustly deprived. Cease to be a puppet in the hands of a faithless
husband, and at least compel this coming war, undertaken for the
recovery of a new mistress, to be the means of establishing your own
rightful position."

This advice was eagerly accepted by Marie, whose ambition had at length
been aroused by a consideration of the failing health and advanced age
of the King and the prospect afforded by the extreme youth of the
Dauphin of a protracted minority, and she consequently hastened to
express to Henry her earnest desire to feel herself in reality Queen of
France before his departure from the kingdom, in order that she might
not have to apprehend any neglect of her legitimate authority upon the
part of the ministers whom he had selected to share with her the burthen
of state affairs. The monarch, who had hitherto refused to listen to
every suggestion which had been made to him of the propriety of showing
this mark of consideration to his royal consort, was even less inclined
to make the concession at this particular moment, when the expenses of
his meditated campaign had been estimated at twelve hundred and fifty
livres a month for the support of his own troops and an equal sum for
those of his allies;[418] and he replied with considerable warmth that
she had chosen her time for such a request most injudiciously, since she
must be aware that he had neither the time nor the funds necessary to
the indulgence of so puerile a vanity. The Queen, however, urged by her
advisers, resolutely returned to the charge, declaring that she could
assume no prominent position in the temporary government of the kingdom
while her own remained so vague and undefined. She reminded him,
moreover, of the uncomplaining patience with which she had awaited his
pleasure upon this particular; a patience which, as she asserted, she
could still have exercised had he not been about to cross the frontier,
but which, under existing circumstances, she now considered as weak and
pusillanimous in the mother of three princes.[419]

"At length, however," says Bassompierre, whose own more than
questionable morality did not permit him to enact the censor upon his
sovereign, "as he was the best husband in the world, he finished by
giving his consent, and delayed his departure until she should have made
her public entry into the capital." [420]

On retiring to his closet the King declared to one or two of his
confidential friends, as he had already done on former occasions when
the same question had been mooted, that the actual cause of the
repugnance which he felt to accede to the wishes of the Queen arose from
a firm conviction that her coronation would cost him his life, and that
he should never leave Paris in safety, as his enemies could only hope to
triumph by depriving him of existence.[421]

"Assuredly," pursues the quaint old chronicler from whom we have just
quoted, "heaven and earth had given us only too many prognostics of what
was to happen to him: it was in the year 1608 that a great eclipse
nearly covered the whole body of the sun; in the preceding year 1607
that the terrible comet appeared; after which some three months or
thereabout we had two earthquakes; then several monsters born in divers
provinces of France; bloody rains that fell at Orleans and at Troyes;
the great plague that afflicted Paris in the past year 1609; the furious
overflowing of the Loire; next the Cure of Montargis found upon the
altar, when he went to celebrate the mass, a scroll by which he was
informed that his Majesty would be killed by a determined blow, and the
said Cure of Montargis carried the paper to the Due de Sully. Several
conspiracies," he goes on to say, "must have been formed against the
life of this good King, since from twenty quarters he received notice of
it. The Pope Paul V sent him a courier express to warn him to be upon
his guard, as very high and powerful ladies and some of the greatest
nobles of his Court were involved in a plot against his life." [422]

What reason the King may have supposed himself to possess for
considering his own death to be consequent upon the coronation of Marie,
or whether he did actually so combine the two events in his own mind, it
were impossible for posterity to decide; but it is at least certain that
Rambure himself is not singular in adducing extraordinary coincidences
and in lending his support to these superstitious terrors, for it is on
record that Cardinal Barberino, who subsequently (in 1623) became Pope
under the title of Urban VIII, and who was, at the period of which we
now write, celebrated for his acquaintance with the occult sciences, as
well as for his skill in astrology, sent a message to the King in the
month of January, by which he cautioned him not to sojourn in any large
city throughout the whole of the year, but more especially during the
months of March, April, May, June, and July; declaring that, should he
disregard the warning, he would be assassinated by an unfrocked monk of
saturnine temperament born in his own kingdom; and adding that he would
do well carefully to ascertain whether any individual answering to this
description were then residing within his dominions, in order that
should such an one be discovered, he might be closely watched; and he,
moreover, concluded by assuring the monarch that if he would submit to
absent himself from all the great cities of his kingdom during the
months specified, he (the Cardinal) would answer with his life that he
should escape the threatened peril.

This intimation, extraordinary as it seems, was, however, insignificant
beside another which reached Henry at the same period through the
Marquis Dufresne, his ambassador at the Court of Constantinople, who was
instructed by the Sultan to desire him to take off the heads of the six
principal nobles of his nation immediately on the receipt of his letter,
and to be upon his guard against the greatest lady in his dominions, as
well as against three persons who were in her confidence, whom he
advised him to imprison during their lives, the whole of them being
implicated in the plot.[423]

Both these communications may, however, find a probable solution in the
circumstance of their having been made by individuals who had obtained
information of a conspiracy against the life of the French King, a
supposition rendered the more rational by the fact that although aware
of the formidable army then organized in France, the Austrians made no
preparation to resist a force which they were conscious was to be used
against themselves; an inertness which could only be accounted for by
the supposition that they were about to employ other and surer methods
of evading the threatened evil.[424] But in addition to these probably
political prophecies, others of a still more singular nature were made
to Henry of his approaching fate. A young female named Anne de Comans
voluntarily declared that a fatal conspiracy had been organized, whose
avowed object was to terminate the existence of the monarch by violence,
and even after his death she persisted in maintaining the truth of her
assertion, not only orally but in writing; for which persistence she was
pronounced to be insane, and so closely confined in an asylum for
lunatics as actually to become in a few months the madwoman which she
had been represented, although it would appear that great doubts were
entertained as to her previous hallucination.[425] Six months before his
death the King being in the house of Zamet retired immediately that he
had dined to a private apartment, whence he sent to summon Thomassin,
one of the most celebrated astrologers of the time, whom he interrogated
respecting his own future destiny and that of his kingdom. In reply he
was warned as usual to beware of the approaching month of May, and at
length, irritated by his scepticism, the professor of the black art
predicted to him not only the day but the very hour which was to
terminate his existence.[426]

A short time subsequently a nobleman of Bearn arrived in Paris and
requested an audience of the King, which he had no sooner obtained than
he informed him that he had been instructed in a vision to seek his
presence in order to warn him of his approaching death. Henry, however,
who piqued himself in public upon denying credence to these supernatural
revelations, and who, moreover, imagined that the object of his
countryman was to obtain a recompense for his zeal, treated the matter
lightly and ordered three hundred crowns to be presented to the stranger
to defray his travelling expenses. This present he, however,
respectfully refused, protesting that he had acted only upon a principle
of duty, and that he should be amply recompensed should his warning
suffice to induce the monarch to adopt such precautions as would enable
him to escape the threatened peril.[427]

Only a few nights previous to her coronation the Queen suddenly awoke
from a profound slumber uttering a piercing shriek and trembling in
every limb. Alarmed by her evident state of agony, the monarch, having
at length succeeded in restoring her to a state of comparative
composure, urged her to explain the cause of her terror, but for a
considerable time she refused to yield to his entreaties. Overcome at
last, however, by his evident anxiety and uneasiness, she informed him
that she had just had a frightful dream, in which she had seen him fall
under the knife of an assassin.[428]

Two remarkable coincidences also demand mention, particularly as they
occurred at a distance from the capital. On the day of the King's
assassination his shield, bearing his blazon, which was attached to the
principal entrance of the chateau of Pau in Bearn, fell heavily to the
ground and broke to pieces; while immediately afterwards the cows of the
royal herd, which had previously been grazing quietly in the park, began
to low in a frightful manner, and suddenly the bull known as _the king_
rushed violently against the gate whence the trophy had fallen and then
sprang into the moat, where it was drowned. The effect produced upon the
inhabitants of the district was instantaneous; loud and lamentable
shouts of "The King is dead!" arose on all sides, and within two hours
every Bearnais felt convinced that his beloved monarch had ceased to

It is useless to multiply these strange tales; but it is certain that
they did not fail in their effect upon the mind of the monarch, however
he might struggle to conceal the feelings which they excited, for
Bassompierre relates that during the preparations which were making for
the coronation of the Queen, Henry repeatedly alluded to his approaching
death with a sadness which evinced his entire belief in the predictions
that had reached him.

"I know not wherefore, Bassompierre," he said on one occasion, "but I am
persuaded that I shall never again see Germany, nor do I believe that
you will go to Italy. I shall not live much longer."

On the 1st of May, when returning from the Tuileries by the great
gallery to the Louvre, supported in consequence of his gout by the Due
de Guise and the narrator himself, he said on reaching the door of the
Queen's closet to his two attendants, "Wait for me here. I will hasten
the toilet of my wife that she may not keep my dinner waiting." He was
of course obeyed, and the Duke and Bassompierre, in order to while away
the time, walked to the balcony that overhung the court of the Louvre,
against which they leant watching what passed below, when suddenly the
great hawthorn which occupied the centre of the area swayed for an
instant and then fell to the earth with a loud crash in the direction of
the King's private staircase without any apparent agency, as not a
breath of air was stirring, nor was any one near it at the time.

The impressionable imagination of Bassompierre was deeply moved.
"Would," he exclaimed to his companion, "that any sacrifice on my part
could have averted so dire a presage as this. God preserve the King!"

"You are mad," was the reply of the Duke, "to connect the fortunes of
the King with the fall of a tree."

"It may be so," was the melancholy rejoinder; "but neither in Italy nor
in Germany would this circumstance fail to produce alarm. Heaven guard
the monarch, and all who are near and dear to him!"

"You are two fools to amuse yourselves with these absurd prognostics,"
said Henry, who had approached them unheard during their momentary
excitement. "For the last thirty years all the astrologers and
mountebanks in the kingdom, as well as a host of other impostors, have
predicted at given intervals that I was about to die, so that when the
time comes some of these prophecies must prove correct and will be
quoted as miracles, while all the false ones will be studiously

The young nobles received the rebuke in silence; but the inexplicable
accident which had just occurred was sufficient in so superstitious an
age to arouse the liveliest forebodings in the minds of those by whom it
was witnessed.[430]


[391] Mademoiselle de Montmorency was the daughter of Henri, first of
the name, Duc de Montmorency, Marshal and Constable of France,
celebrated in the history of the civil wars under the name of Damville,
who died on the 2nd of April 1614, and of Louise de Budos, his second
wife, who had, on her appearance at Court, attracted the attention of
the King. This lady, who became the wife of the Connetable in 1593, died
in 1598. Charlotte Marguerite was born in 1594, and was consequently but
fifteen years of age when she entered the household of the Queen.

[392] Bentivoglio, _Della Fuga del Principe di Conde_.

[393] Bassompierre, _Mem_. p. 53.

[394] Bassompierre, _Mem_. p. 55.

[395] Hector de Pardaillan, Seigneur de Montespan, who died in 1611, at
the advanced age of eighty years. He was the father of Antoine-Arnauld
de Pardaillan, first Marquis d'Antin, grandfather of Roger-Hector,
Marquis d'Antin, great-grandfather of Louis-Henri, Marquis de Montespan,
the husband of Franchise Athenais de Rochechouart-Mortemart, the
celebrated favourite of Louis XIV.

[396] _Memoires_, p. 55.

[397] Mezeray, vol. x. p. 369.

[398] _Memoires_, p. 56.

[399] Mezeray, vol. x. p. 365.

[400] _Memoires_, p. 58.

[401] Sully, _Mem_. vol. vii. p. 189.

[402] Sully, _Mem_. vol. vii. pp. 191, 192.

[403] Mezeray, vol. x. pp. 370, 371.

[404] Montfaucon, vol. v. p. 425.

[405] Daniel, vol. vii. p. 498.

[406] Dreux du Radier, vol. vii. pp. 115, 116.

[407] Alexandre, Comte d'Elbene, celebrated for his military talent and
prowess under Henri III and Henri IV.

[408] _Memoires_, p. 67.

[409] Francois Annibal d'Estrees, Marquis de Coeuvres, subsequently
duke, peer, and Marshal of France, was the son of Jean d'Estrees, Grand
Master of Artillery, and the representative of an ancient and
illustrious family. He was born in 1563, originally entered the Church,
and became Bishop of Laon, to which see he was promoted by Henri IV
himself. He, however, some time afterwards, abandoned the ecclesiastical
profession and embraced that of arms. In this new career he soon
distinguished himself. In 1626 he relieved the Duke of Mantua, took
Treves, and made himself conspicuous alike by his valour and his talent.
When appointed, in 1636, ambassador-extraordinary to Rome, he maintained
the interests of his sovereign with energy and perseverance, and his
frankness and decision caused a misunderstanding between himself and
Urban VIII. On his recall to France he refused to explain or to palliate
his conduct, and died, leaving behind him the _Memoirs of the Regency of
Marie de Medicis._

[410] Louis Potier, Marquis de Gevres, was killed at the siege of
Thionville in 1643.

[411] Jacques Nompar de Caumont, Duc de la Force, was the representative
of a family which traced its descent from the eleventh century, and was
the son of Francois, Seigneur de la Force, who fell during the massacre
of St. Bartholomew. He bore arms in the Protestant army of Henri IV, and
also placed himself at the head of the reformed party under Louis XIII,
to whom, however, he surrendered in 1622, and subsequently became
Marshal of France, and lieutenant-general of the army in Piedmont. He
took Pignerol, defeated the Spaniards at Carignano in 1603, and
possessed himself of several towns in Germany. He then returned to
France, where he died in 1652.

[412] Albert, Archduke of Austria, was the sixth son of Maximilian II,
and was born in 1559. In 1583 he was appointed Viceroy of Portugal, and
in 1596 became Governor of the Low Countries under Philip II. He made
himself master of Calais, Ardres, and Amiens, and married Isabel Clara
Eugenia, the daughter of the Spanish King, who brought him as her dowry
the Catholic Low Countries and Franche-Comte, and thus renewed the war
with Holland. Defeated at Nieuwpoort by Maurice of Nassau in 1600, he
possessed himself of Ostend in 1604, after a siege of three years, three
months, and three days; but he was nevertheless compelled to conclude a
truce of eight months in 1607, and another of twelve years in 1609. He
died in 1621.

[413] Rene de Sainte Marthe de Chateauneuf, who became Keeper of the
Seals under the regency of Marie de Medicis.

[414] Madame Henrietta Marie de France, who was married by procuration,
by the Cardinal de la Rochefoucauld, in the cathedral of Notre Dame, on
the 11th of May 1625, to Charles I of England. This unfortunate Queen
died suddenly at her country-house at Colombes in 1669.

[415] Daniel, vol. vii. pp. 502, 503, by whom these details were
obtained from manuscript letters in the library of the Abbe d'Estrees.

[416] Hector de Preau was a Calvinist nobleman and Governor of

[417] Mezeray, vol. x. p. 374.

[418] Mezeray, vol. x. p. 384.

[419] Mezeray, vol. x. p. 387. L'Etoile, vol. iv. p. 16.

[420] _Memoires_, p. 70.

[421] Rambure, MS. _Mem_. vol. vi. pp. 27, 28.

[422] Rambure, _MS. Mem_. vol. vi. pp. 28, 29.

[423] Rambure, MS. _Mem_. vol. vi. pp. 29, 30.

[424] Mezeray, vol. x. p. 385.

[425] Mezeray, vol. x. pp. 376, 385.

[426] _Mem. pour l'Hist. de France_, vol. ii. p. 309.

[427] Dupleix, p. 411.

[428] L'Etoile, vol. iv. p. 31 _n_.

[429] Mezeray, vol. x. pp. 390, 391.

[430] Bassompierre, _Mem_. p. 70. Rambure, MS. _Mem_. vol. vi. p. 33.


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