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The Life of Marie de Medicis, Vol. 2 (of 3) by Julia Pardoe

Part 3 out of 7

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could not, without impairing the dignity due to his position, personally
declare his regret for an act which he had never committed. He then
counselled the Duke to place the affair in his hands, alleging with a
sophistry which it is difficult to reconcile with reason that an apology
made for him, instead of by him, would at once answer every purpose, and
spare his own pride.

M. de Guise, who throughout the whole transaction would appear to have
been impatient to rid himself of all trouble and annoyance, and
consequently careless by what means it was terminated, readily accepted
the offer; and the Duc de Mayenne accordingly repaired to the palace,
where he informed the Queen that he was authorized by his nephew to
offer his excuses for the displeasure which he had unconsciously given
to his Highness the Comte de Soissons; to which he begged to add the
assurance that the House of Guise, individually and collectively, were
desirous to live upon terms of friendship and courtesy with the Count,
if he would accept their advances in the same spirit.[107]

Delighted by the prospect of restored peace, Marie made no comment upon
the fact that the Duc de Guise had failed to fulfil the promise which he
had made of offering his own apology to the Prince. She was terrified by
the anarchy that had grown up about her, and by the facility with which
those who should have been the most earnest supporters of the dignity
and safety of the Crown found means to involve the Court in confusion
and cabals; a fact which moreover tended to place her more completely in
the power of Concini and his wife than would probably ever have been the
case under other circumstances.

On the 14th of January in the present year the Regent, through the
active agency of Concini, gave her solemn consent to the marriage of the
Comte d'Enghien with Mademoiselle de Montpensier, despite the opposition
of the Cardinal de Joyeuse, the Duc d'Epernon, and a number of the Court
nobles, who were alarmed at the prospect of so close an alliance between
M. de Soissons and the Duc de Guise.

The next event of interest was the final departure of M. de Sully from
the capital, who, previously to quitting Paris, returned to the Regent
the warrant for three hundred thousand livres with which she had, as she
declared, sought to repay his past services. The letter by which the
deed was accompanied was, although perfectly respectful, haughty, cold,
and resolute: nor did the Duke make an effort to disguise from her that
the onerous duties which he had performed to the late monarch, to the
nation, and to herself, could not be repaid by an order upon the royal
treasury; while his retirement was voluntary, and not intended to be
contingent on any such arrangement. The Court gossips made merry over an
altercation which they declared to have taken place between the Duke and
Duchess on the occasion of this transaction; Madame de Sully, whose
vanity was wounded by the loss of dignity and influence consequent on
the retirement of her husband, considering this additional pecuniary
sacrifice alike idle and uncalled-for, and reproaching him with undue
haughtiness in thus refusing the last favour which the Regent had
desired to confer upon him; and the ex-minister retorting by reminding
her that she, at least, had no cause for complaint, since from the
obscure condition of the daughter of a petty lawyer he had elevated her
to the rank of a Duchess, and made her the companion of Princes.[108]

When the dismissal of Sully had been decided, it will be remembered that
De Thou was one of those appointed to succeed him in his office as a
director of finance. The appointment was not, however, accepted; M. de
Harlay, fatigued and disgusted by the intrigues which daily grew up
about him, being anxious to resign his office of First President of the
Parliament, which had previously been held by Christophe de Thou, to a
son so worthy of inheriting his honours. The younger De Thou was,
moreover, his brother-in-law, and he anticipated no difficulty in
transferring his charge to that minister. Even to the last he was,
however, fated to disappointment; for not only was this nomination
opposed by the Pope, but Villeroy, who desired to see the place bestowed
upon one of his own adherents, had sufficient influence with the Regent
to induce her to confer it upon M. de Verdun, over whom he possessed an
unlimited control.[109]

This affront so deeply wounded M. de Thou that he resigned the office
which he had previously held, and even refused to obey the summons of
the Regent, conveyed to him through the Marquis d'Ancre; alleging that
she had treated him with so much disrespect, and had subjected him to
mortification so severe, that he must decline an interview. In vain did
Concini impress upon him that the Queen was willing to allow him to name
his own successor, and to indemnify himself as he considered just; he
would listen to no conditions. To every argument he coldly replied: "She
has treated me ill, and I will not go."

"You are a philosopher," said the Italian sarcastically.

"I had need be one," was the calm retort; "when I consider how I have
been used."

Concini reported the ill-success of his mission, but Marie,
unfortunately blinded by those about her to her real interests, was
indifferent to the just resentment of an able and faithful servant.
"_Non lo faro mai_," was her only remark; and one of the most efficient
and zealous of her ministers was carelessly cast off.[110]

Meanwhile the jealous dissensions of the nobles continued to increase,
and constant quarrels took place between the Cardinal de Joyeuse, the
Comte de Soissons, and the Duc d'Epernon. The latter was, at this
period, detested by all other aspirants to royal favour; his rapid
success at Court had made him insolent; and he advanced such
preposterous claims, and arrogated to himself such an indefeasible right
to the gratitude and indulgence of the Regent, that the Princes of the
Blood took the alarm, and the Prince de Conde and the Comte de Soissons
resolved to effect his disgrace. Concini, as we have already shown, had
long nourished the most bitter resentment against one whom he considered
as a formidable rival in the good graces of the Queen, and he was
consequently induced without difficulty to join in the conspiracy; his
vanity suffering bitterly from the contempt with which he was
ostentatiously treated by the Duke, who was, as the Italian asserted, a
mere gentleman of fortune like himself, until raised to his present rank
by the favour of Henri III, a favour as ill-gained as it was
unbecomingly exhibited. M. d'Epernon, with an absence of tact as
astonishing as it was lamentable in a man whose ambition was unbounded,
and who had no party to support his pretensions against the Princes of
the Blood, lent himself meanwhile by his puerile and headstrong folly to
their enmity, by affecting to brave it; and after a sharp altercation
with M. de Soissons, who did not conceal his intention of insulting him
whenever and wherever they might meet, the infatuated Duke, on the
pretext that he considered his personal safety endangered by the menaces
of the Prince, paraded the streets of Paris with a retinue of seven or
eight hundred mounted followers; and occasionally proceeded on foot to
the Louvre, with his guards ranged in order of battle, and in such force
that the van had frequently reached the gates of the palace before the
rear had quitted those of the Hotel d'Epernon, a distance of two
thousand paces.[111]

This external affectation of almost regal state did not, however,
prevent him from experiencing the most bitter mortification at his
exclusion from all public affairs. He still considered that as he had
been the first to swear fealty, and to place his services at the command
of the Regent, he had a right to retain the supremacy which he had then
assumed; and this arrogant pretension enabled him for a time to support
the daily affronts to which he was subjected; but it soon became
apparent that his position must ere long prove untenable.

The Cardinal de Joyeuse, whose favour depended upon that of the Duc
d'Epernon, having perceived that his credit with the Regent was on the
decline, determined to proceed to Rome. He accordingly took leave of the
King and his mother, and left France; while M. d'Epernon endeavoured to
effect a reconciliation with the Comte de Soissons, an attempt which was
repulsed with resolute coldness on the part of the Prince, who was daily
attaching himself more and more to the interests of Concini.

Early in the spring the Court left Paris for Fontainebleau, accompanied
by all the Princes of the Blood; and during their sojourn in that palace
Marie de Medicis constantly caused M. de Soissons and the Ducs de Guise
and d'Epernon to form her party at _prime_, trusting that constant
companionship, and the equal favour which she was cautious to show to
all, might tend to a general reconciliation.[112]

These efforts on the part of the Regent, however, were of little avail;
individual jealousies and individual interests absorbed all the great
nobles of the Court; and every concession to which they were induced was
purchased at a price, and even then ungraciously yielded. Marie de
Medicis at times lost alike courage and temper under the difficulties by
which she was beset; and on one occasion, when she had retired to her
closet, after having occupied herself for a time with the transaction of
public business, she gave way to a train of thought so agitating and so
painful that she suddenly rose and summoned the ladies of her suite to
her presence. Mesdames de Conti, du Fargis, and de Fervaques hastened
to obey her commands; and as the tapestry fell behind them, the
Queen-mother silently, but with an imperious gesture, motioned them to
be seated. A deep spot of crimson burned on the cheek of Marie, and
there was a harsh glitter in her eye which betrayed the coming storm;
nor was it long ere it burst forth.

"I have asked your presence, Mesdames," she said, fixing a stern look
upon the Princesse de Conti, "when you were each, in all probability,
more pleasantly engaged than in sharing the disquiet and _ennui_ of your
harassed mistress; but, _per Dio!_ the present position of affairs
leaves me no alternative, my own thoughts having become--thanks to those
who should lend their assistance in bearing the grievous burthen which
has been thrust upon me--but sorry companions. The Princes are still
conspiring against my authority, and questioning my acts, as though I
were responsible to each and all of them for the measures which I
consider it expedient to adopt. According to the creed of these
gentlemen, the Regent of France should be but a mere puppet, of which
they, at their good pleasure, may pull the strings. Scarcely have I
recalled them to Court, scarcely have I restored them to favour, than
they organize new cabals excite the nobles to discontent, and breed
discord, alike in the Parliament and among the people. What more can
they require at my hands than what I have already bestowed? The national
treasury is well-nigh exhausted in meeting their demands. Look back an
instant: M. de Conde has, within the last two years, received more than
nine hundred thousand crowns--the Comte de Soissons six hundred
thousand--and MM. de Longueville, d'Epernon, and de Vendome, two
millions among them! Nor is this all: in contenting them I have been
compelled to lavish enormous sums upon others, who would have considered
themselves aggrieved had they not also shared in my munificence. But let
these proud spirits--who, despite their noble blood and their princely
quality, do not disdain to barter their loyalty for gold--let them
beware lest they urge me beyond my patience. Your brothers and
brothers-in-law, Madame la Princesse, will do well to be warned in time.
They are playing a hazardous game. If they believe that by exhausting
the royal treasury they will succeed in rendering themselves masters of
the kingdom, they are deceived; the Queen-mother watches alike over the
life and the crown of her son. Once more I say, let them be warned in
time; not a plot, not a cabal shall escape my knowledge; and should they
disregard the caution which I now condescend to give them through
yourself, they will learn too late what it is to incur the vengeance of
Marie de Medicis."

The silence of a moment succeeded to this outbreak of impassioned
eloquence; for Madame de Conti, fearful of augmenting the anger of her
royal mistress, ventured no reply; and after a brief struggle with
herself the Queen-mother smoothed her ruffled brow, and forcing a smile
to her still quivering lips, she resumed in an altered tone: "Enough of
this, however; tell me now somewhat of your ballet of last night,
Princesse: you have as yet made no mention of its success."

"I awaited the commands of your Majesty ere I intruded the subject,"
replied Madame de Conti coldly; "its success was all that I
could desire."

"Did the Duc de Guise honour your festival with his presence? He seldom,
as I am aware, encourages our Court frivolities."

"MM. de Conde and de Guise were both among my guests, Madame; and I
could have ill brooked the absence of either."

"Ay, ever together, in feast and feud," murmured Marie bitterly to
herself. "And Bassompierre?" she pursued aloud--"the gallant courtier
who has as many mistresses as I have halberdiers in my bodyguard, and
who creates an atmosphere of gladness about him, be he where he may; was
he as gay and gorgeous as his wont?"

"Your Majesty is probably not aware," replied Madame de Conti with
increased formality, "that M. de Bassompierre has quarrelled with one of
my relatives; a circumstance which deprived me of the honour of his

"And the Marquis d'Ancre?" demanded the Queen-mother abruptly; "did he
at least partake of your splendid hospitality?"

The cheek of the Princess blanched, and her voice slightly trembled as
she said hurriedly: "M. d'Ancre was on duty, Madame, about the person
of your Majesty, and I did not presume to ask for his absence from
the palace."

"_Veramente, principessa_" exclaimed Marie de Medicis with sudden
vehemence, "you excel yourself to-day! But have a care! My faithful
servants were no meet guests, as it would seem, at a festival in honour
of the House of Guise. Truly your energetic kinsmen are goodly
diplomatists. Not content with conspiring in the Louvre--under the very
roof which shelters their sovereign--they conspire also in their own
palaces, by the glare of tapers as busily as in the shade. Even to the
measure of soft music they can adapt their treasonable practices; and
amid the murmurs of flattery can breathe the whispers of disaffection as
glibly as when closeted together secure from all intrusion. So be it
then; exclude from your glittering _salons_ all those who are the known
adherents of the sovereign and his mother; they will be careful for the
future to repay the courtesy in kind. I have as great a dread of spies
as yourself, Madame de Conti, and henceforward I will profit by the
lesson which you have taught me."

"I can assure your Majesty--" faltered the lady of honour.

"Nay, Princesse," interposed the Queen-mother bitterly, "do not wrong
yourself. Have at least the courage necessary for the personage which
you have seen fit to enact, and believe me that you will need it when
you venture to cope with a Medicis. Florence can also boast of her
diplomatists, and they may chance to prove even more subtle than those
of our good city of Paris. There is a stern and a profitable lesson in
the past should you read it aright."

So saying Marie de Medicis rose from her seat, and with a stately step
walked to a window overlooking the river, where she remained for a
considerable time apparently absorbed by the busy scene beneath her; but
at length she turned slowly towards the three ladies, who had also
risen, and said calmly: "His Majesty is about to visit me. Mesdames du
Fargis and de Fervaques will assist me to receive him. I excuse Madame
de Conti; after the manifold exertions of the past night she must
need repose."

The Princess made the three low curtsies customary on such occasions,
and disappeared behind the tapestried hangings which were held back by
the usher on duty; while the Queen-mother threw herself once more upon
her seat, and burying her face in her hand, again fell into a deep and
bitter reverie.

Meanwhile the Protestants were preparing for the General Assembly, and
the Marechal de Bouillon proceeded to Sedan, in order to assist at their
deliberations. He had no sooner done this than the Prince de Conde
requested permission to go and take possession of his government of
Guienne, a project which at that particular moment created universal
suspicion, and excited the alarm of Marie, who was apprehensive that he
was about to solicit the support of the reformed party. Under this
impression she exerted all her ingenuity to invent pretexts for delaying
his purpose without awakening his distrust; but they ultimately proved
unavailing, and she found herself compelled to allow him to depart.

At this particular juncture the Duc d'Epernon, irritated by the
persevering avoidance of M. de Soissons, and the covert sarcasms of
Concini, resolved in his turn to absent himself, and to proceed to his
estate at Angouleme, flattering himself that the Regent would be but too
happy to recall him when she discovered how great a blank his departure
must cause at Court. It is moreover probable that he anticipated the
same gratifying impediments which had delayed the journey of the Prince
de Conde; and consequently his disappointment was extreme as he
perceived the pleasure which Marie could not conceal when he mentioned
his wish to retire for a brief interval from the capital. The wound thus
inflicted upon his vanity was, however, soon healed, when, with a
renewal of all her former confidence and condescension, she confessed to
him that no proposition could have been more agreeable to her at that
moment, from her anxiety to secure the services of a friend upon whom
she could rely to keep a zealous watch over the movements of the Prince
de Conde, whose departure had awakened her fears. She then explained the
suspicions she had formed, and gave M. d'Epernon full and ample
instructions for his future guidance, accompanying them with assurances
of her firm reliance upon his attachment and fidelity; thus enabling the
crestfallen courtier, who must otherwise have withdrawn in partial
disgrace, to leave the palace with every mark of favour and

The precaution thus taken with regard to M. de Conde proved, however,
supererogatory, the Prince having no further object in view in absenting
himself from the capital than the gratification of that love of personal
splendour and amusement in which he had always indulged whenever an
opportunity presented itself; and thus while the Duc d'Epernon was
watching all his movements with eager and anxious suspicion, M. de Conde
was simply enacting the quasi-sovereign at Bordeaux and the adjacent
cities where he was received with great ceremony, harangued by the
municipal bodies, and surrounded by a petty court composed of all the
nobles of the province.[114]

Concini had watched the departure of the exulting Duc d'Epernon with a
delight as great as his own; the only rival who threatened to
counterbalance his influence was now removed from the immediate sphere
in which he could prove obnoxious to his fortunes, and he soon felt the
effect of his absence in the increased dependence of the Regent upon
himself and his wife. Nor was the result less obvious to all the members
of the Court, who, as their several interests prompted, were either
overjoyed or dismayed at the unconcealed supremacy of the vainglorious
Marquis, whose bearing became more arrogant than ever, and who appeared
at each moment ready to dispute precedency even with the Princes of the
Blood themselves. All bowed before him. He was the only certain channel
of favour and preferment; and whenever, as frequently occurred, some act
of presumption more glaring than usual aroused against him the ire of
the great nobles, the tears and entreaties of his wife always sufficed
to induce the Regent to make new sacrifices for the purpose of ensuring
his impunity.

This imprudence on the part of Marie, although originating, as it
obviously did, in an inclination to maintain that peace at Court of
which she had now learned by bitter experience to appreciate all the
value, increased the evil which it was intended to obviate, the Italian
only seeing in her indulgence a new motive for continuing his moral
aggressions; and thus the evil increased slowly but surely, and the
hatred engendered by the preposterous pretensions of the Marquis
acquired new force, even when all around him appeared to admit his
supremacy, and to bend before his will.

One of the most striking proofs of the power to which he had at this
period attained is afforded by the fact that a nobleman known as a firm
adherent of M. de Soissons, while conversing with the Marquis de
Coeuvres on the subject of the increasing feud between the Princes of
the Blood, suggested that he could perceive no more certain method for
the Count to maintain himself in favour at Court than that he should
effect the marriage of one of his daughters with the son of the Italian
favourite. This project startled the Marquis, who never for an instant
suspected that the proposition could have originated with M. de Soissons
himself; and whose proud ancestral blood boiled within him at the idea
of so close an alliance between one of the first subjects of France and
an adventurer of obscure birth, whose very claim to respectability was
even yet disputed. He was, however, fated to feel even greater surprise
when, a short time subsequently, as both parties were conversing with
the Marquis in the Queen's gallery at Fontainebleau, he heard a third
person openly, and without the slightest hesitation, enter upon the
subject with Concini himself; who, with evident gratification but
affected humility, immediately replied that such an alliance was an
honour to which he could not pretend, but that were it ever to be
seriously proposed to him, he could only reply in the words of Cardinal
Farnese to an individual who suggested to him an arrangement which at
once flattered his self-love and appeared impossible of completion, "_Tu
m'aduli, ma tu mi piaci_." The subject was not pursued, but it was one
not readily to be forgotten by those who were aware that it had been
mooted; and there can be little doubt that the self-esteem of the
Marquis d'Ancre gained fresh force, even from a passing allusion to the
possibility of such an event.

Encouraged, as it would appear, by the brilliant prospect thus opened
up for his son, Concini soon began to think no aggrandizement beyond the
reach of his ambition; and readily overlooking both personal hatred and
political good-faith in the pursuance of his darling passion, it was not
long ere he argued that since a Prince of the Blood had seen fit to
solicit an alliance with himself, he might readily infer that a noble of
inferior rank could not but esteem it as an honour; and accordingly he
commenced a negotiation with the Duc d'Epernon, between whose second
son, the Marquis de la Valette, and his own daughter he desired to
effect a marriage. This proposal was, however, resented as an insult by
the Duke, who was not sparing in his comments upon the insolence of the
Italian adventurer; and so unmeasured were his expressions that his ruin
must have been ensured from that moment, had not a circumstance shortly
afterwards occurred which rendered his services necessary to the Regent.

Before the end of April the Duc de Bouillon returned from Sedan, and
manifested an earnest inclination to devote himself, in so far as his
honour and religious principles would permit him to do so, to the
interests of the Regent during the approaching assembly at Saumur;
adding, moreover, that should the Queen deem his absence from the
meeting desirable, he would remain at Court until it had terminated. So
unexpected a concession highly gratified Marie, who, with many
acknowledgments for his devotion to her cause, referred him to M. de
Villeroy, by whom, his proposal having been demurely considered, it was
declined; the minister being aware that the influence of M. de Bouillon
would be alone able to counteract that of Sully, who, having left the
Court disappointed and dissatisfied, would not fail to profit by so
favourable an opportunity of asserting his power over his
co-religionists. He, moreover, while thanking the Prince for a proof of
loyalty so welcome to the Government, and so important to the sovereign,
hinted that should he succeed in weakening the power of Sully, and in
inducing the Assembly to consent to such terms as could prudently be
conceded, he would confer upon him the government of Poitou, of which it
had been decided to deprive the ex-finance-minister.[115]

This new impulse added fresh energy to the sudden loyalty of M. de
Bouillon, who at once proceeded to Saumur in order to secure his
election as President of the Assembly, a distinction which he declared
to be due to his long services. The Protestant deputies were, however,
by no means inclined to admit his claim, and more than suspicious of his
intentions; and they consequently, despite his undisguised annoyance,
selected for that dignity M. du Plessis-Mornay, the governor of the
city; a circumstance which did not fail to increase the hatred felt by
the Marechal towards Sully, to whom he immediately attributed the
mortification. Soon made conscious, by the coldness with which his
invectives and threats were received by the principal Huguenot nobles,
that he was only injuring by his unseemly violence the cause he sought
to serve, M. de Bouillon nevertheless resolved to restrain himself, and
to endeavour to effect a good understanding with Sully, whose personal
importance on this occasion was powerfully increased by the influence of
his son-in-law the Duc de Rohan. The Assembly met for the first time in
May, and continued their sittings until September, at which period their
demands and grievances were despatched to the Court, the dismissal of
Sully being indicated as one of the latter.

This fact alarmed the Council, who moreover could not contemplate
without great apprehension the union and perfect understanding which
had, throughout the whole proceedings, characterized the Protestant
leaders, who had taken their usual oath to uphold each other and the
faith which they professed; and who were, as the ministers well knew,
able to redeem their pledge so effectively should they see fit to exert
their power, that any demonstration on their part could not fail to
convulse the nation from one extremity to the other. After considerable
deliberation it was agreed that the only method by which the impending
evil could be averted was to dissolve the Assembly before it could
proceed from words to acts; and accordingly a pretext for this breach of
faith was at once found in the declaration that the King had permitted
the assembling of the reformed party to enable them to select six
individuals, from among whom he might himself nominate two as general
deputies; while at the same time the documents forwarded to the Court
were returned, with an emphatic refusal to make any reply to their
contents until such time as the required nomination had been made. All
opposition, save what must have assumed a decidedly hostile character,
was of course impossible on the part of the Protestants, whose
indignation, loud as it naturally became for a time, was finally
silenced, even if not extinguished, by the calm and dignified eloquence
of the Comte du Plessis-Mornay, who reminded the Assembly that their
first duty as Christians was obedience to the ruling powers.

"Let us separate," said this prudent and right-minded man, as
exclamations of anger and violence resounded on all sides. "Let each, on
leaving this spot, leave also all animosity behind him. We should only
heighten the evil by spreading it through the provinces. Each has
failed, yet each has done well. Let us now endeavour to obtain by
respectful silence and Christian patience what has been refused to our
remonstrances and requests." [116]

A short time subsequently, the death of M. de Crequy, governor of the
town and citadel of Amiens, having taken place, a great number of the
nobles were ambitious to succeed to the vacant dignity, among whom was
the Marquis d'Ancre, whose insatiable ambition grasped at every
opportunity of acquiring honour and advancement. Having confided his
wish upon this subject to M. de Soissons, he was encouraged in his
pretensions by that Prince; and having obtained the royal permission to
absent himself for a time from the Court, he hastened to Picardy,
attended by a hundred horsemen, in order to negotiate the affair with
the entire sanction of the Queen; where, although opposed by the
ministers who were anxious to curb his daily increasing power, he
ultimately succeeded in his attempt.

Nevertheless the objections raised by the Council, not only to his
acquirement of the government, but also to the marriage of his son with
the daughter of M. de Soissons, which had been communicated to them by
the Marquis de Rambouillet,[117] embittered his temper, and determined
him to discover some means of revenging what he considered as an undue
interference with his personal affairs. The extraordinary imprudence of
which he was soon afterwards guilty rendered him, however, for a time
unable to indulge his vindictiveness, and even threatened to involve him
in the disgrace which he was so anxious to see visited upon his
adversaries. In the first place, intoxicated by his newly acquired
dignities, he affected the utmost attachment for M. de Soissons, who had
exerted all his influence in his behalf; and remarked that the
proposition lately made to him by the Prince for an alliance between
their families was no longer so unequal as it had then appeared,
although he was still aware that it would be a great honour conferred
upon himself; but that as the Duc de Longueville was about to marry
another daughter of the Prince, and that their governments were
contiguous, the union of his own son with the sister of the bride might
prove a mutual advantage, and of considerable service to M. de Soissons
himself. This unseemly boast he followed up by a still more flagrant
proof of presumption; for, being anxious to assert his entire authority
over the citadel of Amiens, he entered into a financial treaty with M.
de Rouillac the lieutenant, and M. de Fleury the ensign of the fortress,
and replaced them by adherents of his own, without the sanction of the
Regent; after which he borrowed, on his own responsibility, twelve
thousand livres from the receiver-general of the province for the
payment of his garrison.

Such an unprecedented disregard of the royal prerogative had never
before occurred in France; and it no sooner became known to the
ministers than they hastened to represent it in its most heinous aspect
to the Queen, impressing upon her in no measured terms the danger of
such a precedent, which could not fail to bring contempt upon her
authority, and to introduce disorder into the finances of the nation;
and entreating her to remember that should she sanction an alliance
between the imprudent favourite and a Prince of the Blood, she could no
longer hope to restrain his extravagances. Marie de Medicis was jealous
of her dignity, and moreover fully conscious of the fault which had
been committed by Concini, and her anger was consequently unbounded. In
the first burst of her indignation she refused to see Madame d'Ancre,
whom she accused of having incited her husband to these demonstrations
of disrespect towards herself; and her wrath was skilfully increased by
the Princesse de Conti, who looked upon the favour of the low-born
Leonora with impatience and disgust, and could not desire a more ready
means of ensuring her discredit than that of following up the arguments
of the ministers, of dwelling upon the little respect which had been
shown to the person and privileges of her royal mistress, and of
expatiating on the ruinous effect of so pernicious an example upon the
discontented nobility.

The effect of these frequent and confidential conversations may be
imagined; the mind of the Queen became more and more excited against her
former favourites, while she clung with the tenacity of helplessness to
Madame de Conti, through whose medium the Princes began to hope that
they should at length triumph over the detested Italian. But the sun of
Concini was not destined to set so soon; and although he had fierce
enemies, he still possessed zealous friends; the more zealous, perhaps,
because they had accurately read the character of the Tuscan Princess,
and were well aware that she had so long leant upon others that she had
at last become incapable of perfect self-reliance. Through the medium of
those friends, but undoubtedly still more from the daily and hourly
_ennui_ experienced by Marie herself while thus deprived of the society
of her foster-sister, the pardon of Concini was finally obtained. He was
declared to have erred through ignorance; and a perfect reconciliation
took place which overthrew all the half-fledged projects of the
disappointed courtiers.

Two circumstances alone tended to mitigate the satisfaction of the
Marquis d'Ancre. The representations of the ministers had succeeded in
so thoroughly awakening the apprehensions of the Regent, that she had,
at their first interview, strictly forbidden him thenceforward to
attempt the accomplishment of his anticipated alliance with the House of
Bourbon; while he had found himself compelled to apologize to the Comte
de Soissons for the excesses in which he had indulged in Picardy, and
which had drawn down upon the Prince the resentment, not only of the
Queen herself, but of the whole Council, by whom he was accused of
having upheld the pretensions of the Italian in order to aggrandize his
own daughter.

In the month of July Marie de Medicis bestowed great happiness upon the
whole nation by remitting the arrears of taxes which had remained unpaid
from the year 1597, until that of 1603; while she also, at the same
period, decreed the abolition of the gaming academies to which allusion
was made in the preceding volume; and, finally, ascertaining that the
edict against duelling issued by the late King had been evaded by
certain sophistical observances, she published a declaration setting
forth that all hostile meetings, however arranged, would not only
entail the penalties already denounced against them, but henceforward be
regarded as acts of assassination. This wholesome and well-timed
declaration was verified by the Parliament on the 11th of July, and
great hopes were entertained that so stringent a measure would
effectually terminate an abuse which, during the reign of the late King,
had deprived France of several thousand of her best chivalry.[118]

Throughout the autumn, notwithstanding the gravity of the affairs then
pending, the Court at Fontainebleau was one ceaseless scene of
dissipation. High play still formed a prominent feature in the
amusements of the palace, and the extent to which it was carried may be
estimated by the fact that Concini, before his return to the capital,
had lost at cards and dice the enormous sum of twenty-six thousand
pistoles;[119] and while the _branle_ and the gaming-table occupied the
night, the day was devoted to hunting, a diversion in which the Queen
constantly participated, accompanied by the Princesses and ladies of the
Court, and attended by a suite of between four and five hundred of the
principal nobles. The arrival of the Duchesse de Lorraine and the
Cardinal de Gonzaga[120] gave a new impetus to the gaiety of the royal
circle, while their sumptuous reception at the palace induced new
outlay and new rivalry among the courtiers.[121]

It was in the midst of this splendid dissipation that the Regent
received tidings of the death of the Duc de Mayenne, a loss which, from
the good understanding recently established between herself and that
Prince, was of serious importance to her authority; while the event
produced a still more painful impression from the fact that his wife,
Henrietta of Savoy, had died of grief a few days subsequently, and that
they had been carried to the grave together.

The next news which reached the Court was that of the demise of
Marguerite of Austria, Queen of Spain; an event which, from the recent
treaty concluded between the two countries, had become doubly
interesting to France. This Princess, who was the daughter of Charles,
Archduke of Gratz, Duke of Styria and Carinthia, and of Marie of
Bavaria, had become the wife of Philip III in November 1599; and had
left four sons, viz. Philip, Charles, Ferdinand, and Alfonso; and two
daughters, Anne and Marguerite, the former of whom was promised to
Louis XIII.

Other and more personal interests sufficed, nevertheless, to dry the
tears of the Queen-mother, as at this period the Duchesse de Lorraine
explained the purport of her visit; which, it is asserted, was to induce
her royal niece to redeem the pledge given by her deceased husband that
the Dauphin should espouse the Princesse de Lorraine, who would bring
as her dowry to the young King the duchies of Lorraine and Bar. Marie
was, however, too deeply compromised with Spain as well as with the Pope
and the Grand Duke of Tuscany, both of whom were earnest to effect the
completion of that alliance, to follow up a policy which could not but
have proved much more beneficial to the French nation; while the Conde
de Fuentes, who immediately suspected the purpose of Madame de Lorraine,
loudly and arrogantly asserted that the French King could not have two
wives; that his marriage with the Infanta was concluded; and that his
sovereign was not to be cheated with impunity.[122]

Oppressed by this double weight of regret and anxiety, Marie and her
Court returned to the Louvre; but her grief was still fated to be
fearfully increased, for she had scarcely established herself in the
palace when her maternal terrors were suddenly awakened by intelligence
of the dangerous illness of her second son, the Duc d'Orleans, upon
which she hastened to St. Germain. The fiat had, however, gone forth,
and two days subsequently the little Prince, upon whose precocious
intellect and sweetness of disposition so many hopes had been built up,
was a corpse in his mother's arms; and within a few hours Madame de
Lorraine and her brother had taken leave of their illustrious relative,
while the Court of the Louvre, so lately giddy with gaiety, was once
more draped in sables.[123]

Devotedly attached to her children, the Queen was for a time
inconsolable; her greatness was embittered by private suffering, and her
authority was endangered by intestine broils; she looked around her, and
scarcely knew upon whom to depend, or upon what to lean. The constant
exactions of the Princes convinced her of the utter hopelessness of
satisfying their venality, and securing their allegiance, save by
sacrifices which gradually tended to diminish her own power, and to
compromise the interests of the Crown, while the people murmured at the
burthens inflicted upon them in order to gratify the greed of
the nobility.

To increase her anxiety, the death of her second son was destined to add
to the number of malcontents by whom the Queen was surrounded, all the
principal officers of his household advancing their claim to be
transferred to that of the infant Duc d'Anjou, who, on the demise of the
Duc d'Orleans, assumed the title of Monsieur, as only brother of the
King. It was, however, impossible to place all these candidates about
the person of the young Prince, and it was ultimately decided that M. de
Breves,[124] a relative of M. de Villeroy, to whom the appointment had
already been promised by Henri IV, should be selected as the preceptor
of Monsieur, to the exclusion of M. de Bethune, who had held the same
post about the Duc d'Orleans, and who consequently demanded to be
transferred to the service of his brother. But the relative of Sully was
little likely to prove a successful candidate; he had owed his previous
appointment to the influence of the powerful kinsman whose counsels
swayed the actions of a great monarch; that monarch was now in his
grave, and that kinsman in honourable exile; and his claim was no longer
admitted. The Marquis de Coeuvres, who had been master of the wardrobe
to the deceased Prince, was fated to be equally disappointed. The
ministers had not forgotten that he had been an active agent in the
proposed alliance between the Comte de Soissons and Concini, and they
did not fail to impress upon the Queen the extreme danger of placing an
individual of so resolute and enterprising a character about the person
of the heir presumptive. As he could obtain no decided reply to his
application, M. de Coeuvres solicited the assistance of the Marquis
d'Ancre, who met his request with civil professions of regard, but
declined to oppose the will of the ministers; an exhibition of
ingratitude which so enraged the applicant that he forthwith declined
all further interference in the affairs or claim upon the friendship of
the fickle Italian, and attached himself exclusively to the interests of
M. de Soissons.[125]

This Prince was also destined, at this particular period, to augment the
difficulties of the Regent. The duchy of Alencon had been mortgaged by
the French Crown to the Duke of Wuertemberg; and hopes had, some months
previously, been held out to the Prince that, should he ever be in a
position to redeem the debt, he might avail himself of the opportunity,
and become its possessor. This time had now come; the Princess his wife
had recovered from the Duke of Savoy a large amount for her estates in
Piedmont, which he resolved to devote to the acquisition of the coveted
duchy, and he accordingly applied for the sanction of the King, without
whose consent the transfer could not be legally executed.

It is probable that, having already received a partial consent to his
wishes, M. de Soissons was far from apprehending any serious impediment
to their realization; but the jealousy of Marie had been aroused, and
she did not fail to perceive that such a concession must be dangerous to
the interests of the younger Children of France. The Prince had
therefore no sooner made his request than she assumed an attitude of
offended dignity and cold rebuke; and while he awaited her reply with a
smile of anticipatory success, she said drily, "Do you wish, Monsieur,
to acquire a duchy which has constantly been set apart as the appanage
of one of the sons of the sovereign? I begin to perceive that your
designs are somewhat lofty."

Thus repulsed, M. de Soissons withdrew, but with a demeanour which
convinced the Regent that she had made a new enemy, whom she must
consequently prepare herself to resist; a conclusion at which she had no
sooner arrived than she summoned the Prince de Conde and the Duc
d'Epernon to her assistance.[126]

This measure was not, however, destined to prove entirely successful.
The Marquis de Coeuvres, who at once felt that M. de Soissons was in no
position to maintain single-handed any effectual opposition to the host
of adversaries about to be marshalled against him, lost not a moment in
seeking to convince him that he had but one prospect of avoiding the
disgrace by which he was threatened. The impetuous Count poured forth
all his wrath in invectives, and declared his readiness to endure any
mortification rather than not enforce what he persisted in designating
as his legitimate claims as a Prince of the Blood, but his zealous
adviser was not to be thus silenced.

"Remember, Sir," was the rejoinder of the Marquis, "that you are now
embroiled with both the Regent and her ministers; that the momentary
truce between yourself and Concini is merely lip-deep, and may be broken
by a breath; that you are the open and declared enemy of the Guises and
the Duc d'Epernon; and that each and all of these are interested in your
ruin. I do not attempt to deny that your quality as a Prince of the
Blood must, as a natural consequence, avail you much; and it is this
very conviction that encourages me to persist in counselling you to
place no reliance upon minor friendships, but at once to ally yourself
closely with your nephew the Prince de Conde, and thus strengthen the
very rights upon which you presume. During a minority the Princes of the
Blood have an influence in France, which once earnestly and truthfully
united and exerted, must eventually prove irresistible."

After some further difficulty M. de Soissons suffered himself to be
convinced by the arguments of the Marquis, and it was ultimately
resolved that overtures should be made to this effect on the part of the
Count through the medium of M. de Beaumont, the son of the President de
Harlay, who was at that period expected in the capital, and who was in
the confidence of the Prince de Conde. Beaumont had accordingly no
sooner arrived than the Marquis de Coeuvres made him acquainted with the
desire of the Count, and it was finally agreed that, upon the pretext of
a hunt, the two Princes should meet at the residence of the former. As,
however, it was immediately ascertained that the Regent had expressed
some suspicions of this interview, and declared the reconciliation which
had taken place to be too sudden not to involve some occult purpose, M.
de Soissons deemed it expedient to silence her fears by inviting Concini
to join the party.

The invitation was accepted; the hunt took place, and was succeeded by
high play, after which the different personages apparently separated
for the night; but within half an hour the two royal kinsmen and their
confidential friends were closeted together, and before dawn an alliance
offensive and defensive was concluded between the Princes, who each
pledged himself to receive no favour or benefit from the Government to
the exclusion or loss of the other; and that, moreover, in the event of
the disgrace or disgust of either, the other should withdraw from the
Court at the same time, whither neither was to be at liberty to return
alone; and this compact, which, as will immediately be seen, could not
fail to prove dangerous to the interests of Marie, was religiously
observed until the death of M. de Soissons.[127]

The credit of the ministers was greatly increased by this new cabal, as
the Regent instantly perceived the necessity of opposing their authority
to the probable pretensions of the Princes, neither of whom attempted to
disguise their discontent at the insignificant position to which they
had been reduced at Court. To Jeannin, in particular, the Queen
expressed in unmeasured terms the confidence which she placed in his
zeal and loyalty; she called him her _friend_, her _arm_, and her
_head_, and assured him that she would be guided entirely by
his counsels.

Anxious to respond to these flattering demonstrations, and to justify
the trust reposed in them, the ministers resolved, in order still
further to protect the Crown against any aggression on the part of the
Princes, to recall to Court the Marechal de Lesdiguieres, who was easily
induced to resign his command of the army in Champagne by the prospect
which they held out to him, of verifying and confirming the ducal patent
which he had obtained from Henri IV. They, however, subsequently failed
to keep this promise, and the disappointment so irritated the Marechal
that he resolved to revenge himself by joining the party of the Princes,
and otherwise harassing the Council; a determination which was
unfortunately too easily realized at a period of such internal

The last event worthy of record which took place in the present year was
the purchase towards the close of September of the Hotel de Luxembourg
by the Queen-Regent, for the sum of thirty thousand crowns, in order to
erect upon its site the celebrated Palais d'Orleans, now once more known
by its original name of the Luxembourg. The construction of this
splendid edifice was entrusted to Jacques de Brosse,[129] who
immediately commenced removing the ruins of the dilapidated hotel which
encumbered the space destined for the new elevation; and four years
subsequently the first stone was laid of the regal pile which
transmitted his own name to posterity, linked with those of Marie de
Medicis and Peter Paul Rubens.[130]


[98] Sully, _Mem_. vol. viii. p. 129.

[99] Joachim, Sire de Chateauvieux, had been captain of the bodyguard to
Henri IV.

[100] Sully, _Mem_. vol. viii. pp. 133, 134.

[101] Charles de l'Aubespine, Marquis de Chateauneuf-sur-Cher, was born
on the 22nd of February 1580. He was abbot and sub-dean of Preaux, and
was successively ambassador to Switzerland, Holland, Brussels, England
and Venice. On the 14th of November 1630 he was appointed Keeper of the
Seals of France; was deprived of his office on the 25th of February
1633, and recalled on the 2nd of March 1650. He, however, voluntarily
resigned the appointment on the 3rd of April 1651, and retired from the
Court. He died at Leuville on the 17th of September 1653.

[102] D'Hericourt, _Hist. de France_, vol. i. p. 524.

[103] Mezeray, vol. xi. pp. 16, 17.

[104] Richelieu, _Hist. de la Mere et du Fils_, vol. i. pp. 121, 127.

[105] D'Estrees, _Mem_. p. 384, edit. Petitot, suite de Bassompierre.

[106] Bassompierre, _Mem_. p. 75.

[107] Richelieu, _Hist. de la Mere et du Fils_, vol. i. pp. 224, 225.

[108] L'Etoile, vol. iv. p. 206.

[109] D'Estrees, _Mem_. p. 385.

[110] L'Etoile, vol. iv. pp. 210, 211.

[111] Le Vassor, _Hist. de Louis XIII_, vol. i. pp. 57, 58.

[112] Bassompierre, _Mem_. p. 77.

[113] Richelieu, _Hist. de la Mere et du Fils_, vol. i. p. 136.

[114] Le Vassor, vol. i. p. 58.

[115] Mezeray, vol. xi. p. 22.

[116] Mezeray, vol. xi. pp. 22, 23. Le Vassor, vol. i. pp. 72-79.

[117] Nicolas d'Angennes, Marquis de Rambouillet, and Vidame du Mans,
was captain of the bodyguard to Charles IX, and subsequently, under
Henri III, Knight of all the royal Orders, and ambassador to Germany and
Rome. M. de Thou asserts that to high birth M. de Rambouillet united
superior merit; and that, combined with an unusual taste for literature,
he possessed an extraordinary knowledge of public business.

[118] Richelieu, _Hist. de la Mere et du Fils_, vol. i. pp. 152, 153.

[119] L'Etoile, vol. iv. p. 223.

[120] Louis, Cardinal de Gonzaga, was the last member of the Novellare
branch of the illustrious Italian house of Gonzaga, Dukes of Mantua, and
was canonized in 1621 under the title of St. Louis de Gonzaga.

[121] Bassompierre, _Mem_. p. 78.

[122] Siri, _Mem. Rec_. vol. ii. pp. 577-586.

[123] Bassompierre, _Mem_. p. 78.

[124] Francois Savary, Seigneur de Breves, had served as ambassador both
at Constantinople and Rome, and was a man of great erudition. Well
versed in history, an able diplomatist, and possessed of considerable
antiquarian lore, he had travelled in Greece, Asia Minor, and the Holy
Land. His pupil, at the period of his appointment, being still a mere
infant, he did not enter upon his official functions until 1615, when
the young Prince was placed under his care, on the departure of the
Court for Bordeaux to celebrate the marriage of Louis XIII with Anne
of Austria.

[125] Richelieu, _Hist. de la Mere et du Fils_, vol. i. pp. 163, 164.
D'Estrees, _Mem_. p. 392.

[126] Le Vassor, vol. i. pp. 88, 89.

[127] Le Vassor, vol. i. pp. 89, 90. Richelieu, _Hist. de la Mere et du
Fils_, vol. i. pp. 157, 158.

[128] Richelieu, _Hist. de la Mere et du Fils_, vol. i. pp. 160, 161.
D'Estrees, _Mem_. p. 393.

[129] Jacques de Brosse was the most renowned architect of his day, and
left behind him more than one work calculated to justify his celebrity.
In addition to the Luxembourg Palace, which was built entirely according
to his designs, he erected the magnificent portico of St. Gervais, the
aqueduct of Arcueil, and the famous Protestant church of Charenton
(destroyed in 1685).

[130] _Curiositez de Paris_, edit. Sangrain, Paris 1742, vol. ii. p. 37.



The Princes of the Blood retire from the Court--Increased influence of
the Ducs de Guise and d'Epernon--Jealousy of Concini--The ministers
desire the recall of the Princes--The Lent ballets--The government of
Quilleboeuf is offered to the Comte de Soissons--The Princes are invited
to return to the capital--Arrival of the Princes--M. de Soissons
abandons Concini--An attempt is made to create dissension between M. de
Soissons and the Prince de Conde--They again withdraw from Paris--The
Regent resolves to announce publicly the approaching marriage of the
King--Disaffection of the Princes--Frankness of the Duc de Guise--The
Duc d'Epernon is recalled--The Duc de Bouillon is despatched to
England--The Council discuss the alliance with Spain--The Princes return
to the capital--Undignified deportment of the Prince de Conde--
Insolence of M. de Soissons--Indignation of the Regent--The young Duc de
Mayenne is appointed ambassador extraordinary to Spain--An unpleasant
truth--Arrogance of the Spanish King--Concession of the Regent--Death of
the Duke of Mantua--The Chancellor announces the King's marriage--An
ambassador and a quasi-Queen--Disappointment of the Princes--They again
withdraw--Caution of the Duc de Montmorency to the Regent--She
disregards the warning--Love of Marie de Medicis for magnificence and
display--Courtly entertainments--The circle of Madame--The Marquise
d'Ancre--A carousal--Splendid festivities--Arrival of the Spanish
envoys--The Chevalier de Guise--Alarm of Concini--The Queen and her
foster-sister--Concini resolves to espouse the party of the Princes--The
Duc de Bouillon endeavours to injure the Duc de Rohan in the estimation
of James I--Reply of the English monarch--Bouillon returns to Paris--The
Marechal de Lesdiguieres retires from the Court--The Duc de Vendome
solicits the royal permission to preside over the States of Brittany--Is
refused by the Regent--Challenges his substitute--And is exiled to
Anet--Concini augments the disaffection of the Princes--The Duke of
Savoy joins the cabal--Lesdiguieres prepares to march a body of troops
against the capital--Concini deters the Regent from giving the
government of Quilleboeuf to the Comte de Soissons--Indignation of the
Duc de Guise--He reveals the treachery of Concini to the Princes--All
the great nobles join the faction of M. de Conde with the exception of
the Duc d'Epernon--The Duc de Bellegarde is accused of sorcery--Quarrel
between the Comte de Soissons and the Marechal de Fervaques--Marie de
Medicis resolves to persecute the Protestants--Bouillon endeavours to
effect the disgrace of the Duc de Rohan--The Regent refuses to listen to
his justification--He takes possession of St. Jean d'Angely--Anger of
the Queen--Conflicting manifestoes--M. de Rohan prepares to resist the
royal troops--The ministers advise a negotiation, which proves
successful--Departure of the Duc de Mayenne for Madrid--Arrival of the
Duque de Pastrano--His brilliant reception in France--His magnificent
retinue--His first audience of Louis XIII--The Cardinals--Puerility of
the Princes--Reception of the Spanish Ambassador by Madame--_The year of
magnificence_--Splendour of the Court of Spain--Signature of the
marriage articles--Honours shown to M. de Mayenne at Madrid--The Spanish
Princess and her Duenna--The Duke of Savoy demands the hand of Madame
Christine for his son--Marie desires to unite her to the Prince of
Wales--Death of Prince Henry of England--Death of the Comte de
Soissons--The Prince de Conti claims the government of Dauphiny--The
Comte d'Auvergne is released from the Bastille, and resigns his
government of Auvergne to M. de Conti--The Prince de Conde organizes a
new faction--The Regent espouses his views--Alarm of the Guises--Recall
of the Duc de Bellegarde--He refuses to appear at Court--The Baron de
Luz is restored to favour--The Guises prepare to revenge his defection
from their cause.

The Prince de Conde and the Comte de Soissons having withdrawn from the
capital, MM. de Guise and d'Epernon found themselves once more the
principal personages of the Court, but their triumph was nevertheless
greatly moderated by the jealousy of Concini, who began to apprehend
that their ceaseless efforts to gratify the wishes of the Queen, and to
flatter her love of splendour and dissipation, might ultimately tend to
weaken his own influence; while the ministers, on their side, aware that
the negotiations then pending with Spain for the marriage of the King
could not be readily concluded without their aid and concurrence,
however they might deprecate their return from other causes, also felt
the necessity of securing their co-operation, for which purpose it was
essential that such measures should be adopted as might render this
concession acceptable to the royal malcontents.[131]

While this subject was under consideration, and Lent rapidly
approaching, the Queen, who, being still in slight mourning, could not,
according to the established etiquette, hold any assemblies in her own
apartments, but who was unwilling to forego the customary amusements of
the Carnival, desired the Duc de Guise, the Prince de Joinville, and M.
de Bassompierre to perform a ballet every Sunday, which they accordingly
did, "dividing," says the latter, "the expense between us."

The first of these allegorical dances was executed in the apartments of
the Princesse de Conti, where a supper was prepared for her Majesty with
an exclusiveness uncommon at the time, and which created considerable
disappointment in the Court circle. None but the Princes then resident
in the capital, namely MM. de Guise, de Nevers, and de Reims, with a few
chosen courtiers, were permitted to attend, while the number of ladies
was equally limited.

The second took place in the apartments of the Duchesse de Vendome, upon
which occasion the banquet was offered to the Queen by Madame de
Mercoeur; the third at the Hotel de Guise, where the Regent was
entertained in the private _salon_ of the Duchess; and the fourth and
last in the suite of rooms appropriated to Madame de Guercheville in the

"I took the liberty," says Rambure, with his usual quaintness, "of
representing to the Regent that the people would murmur on witnessing
balls at Court while she was still in mourning, but she only laughed at
me, and bade me dismiss such an idea from my thoughts; at which I was
not at all pleased, from the respect that I entertained for the memory
of his late Majesty." [133]

These gaieties did not, however, serve to divert the thoughts of the
ministers from their desire to recall the absent Princes of the Blood;
and it was finally arranged that as M. de Soissons had been the original
cause of their absence, owing to his indignation at the ill-success of
his attempt to purchase the duchy of Alencon, it would be expedient to
hold out to him a prospect of obtaining the government of Quilleboeuf.
It was accordingly decided that the Marquis d'Ancre, on the part of
their Majesties, and M. de Villeroy on that of the ministers, should
proceed to Nogent, where the Princes were then residing, and invite them
to return to Court, with a full assurance from all parties that they
would there occupy the station befitting their exalted rank, and be
received with the dignities and honours which were due to them as
Princes of the Blood.

The mission of the two envoys proved successful; and on their arrival at
Fontainebleau the uncle and nephew were welcomed with a warmth and
magnificence which alike flattered their self-love and tended to inspire
them with confidence. Nevertheless, M. de Soissons had no sooner
discovered that the Marquis d'Ancre, who, when he had himself retired
from the Court, had lost the favour of the Queen, was now the firm ally
of the ministers, through whose good offices he had regained his former
position, than he exhibited towards the Italian a haughtiness and
avoidance which ere long terminated in an open rupture.

Fearful of incurring through the means of the Count the additional
enmity of M. de Conde, Concini endeavoured to win over the Marquis de
Coeuvres, and to effect through his interposition a reconciliation with
the indignant Prince. To this solicitation M. de Coeuvres replied that
in order to establish a good understanding between two persons whom he
had already so strenuously sought to serve, he was willing and ready to
forget his private wrongs; but when it was suggested to him that he
should exert his influence to renew the proposed marriage without
reference to the Queen-Regent, he declined to make any effort to induce
M. de Soissons to adopt so onerous a course, alleging that he had
already suffered sufficiently by his interference in a matter which had
been productive of great annoyance and injury to the Prince, and that he
would not again lend his assistance to the project until the Marquis
d'Ancre and his wife pledged themselves to reconcile M. de Soissons with
the ministers, to restore him to the favour of the Regent, and to obtain
her sanction to the proposed alliance.

The firmness of this refusal staggered Concini, who, only recently
reinstated in the good graces of the Queen, was for once apprehensive
of the failure of his influence. He consequently confined his reply to a
simple acknowledgment of the courtesy with which his proposal had been
met by the Marquis, and then endeavoured personally to regain the
confidence of the Prince by assurances of the sincere inclination of the
Queen to meet his wishes upon every point within her power. As a natural
consequence M. de Soissons listened willingly to these flattering
declarations, uttered as they were by an individual well known to be in
the entire confidence of his royal mistress; but they soon became
blended with the regrets of the Marquis that his listener should have
formed so close an alliance with his nephew as to have drawn down upon
him the suspicion of the Court; and plausibly as these regrets were
expressed, M. de Soissons was soon enabled to discover that the wily
Italian had been instructed to detach him from Conde.

A similar endeavour was made with the Prince de Conde, but both were
ineffectual. The two royal kinsmen had become fully aware that mutual
support was their only safeguard against the party opposed to them; and
they had no sooner detected the symptoms of coldness which supervened
upon the ill-success of their advisers, than they resolved once more to
leave the Court; and accordingly having taken leave of their Majesties,
and resisted the pressing solicitations poured forth on all sides, they
again retired; the Prince to St. Valery, and the Count to Dreux. This
renewed opposition to her wishes roused the spirit of the Regent. She
saw, as she asserted, that there no longer remained a hope of
restraining the haughtiness, or of satisfying the pretensions, of the
great vassals of the Crown; and she accordingly declared that in order
to maintain her authority, and to secure the throne of her son, she
would not allow the absence of the two Princes of the Blood to delay the
publication of the King's marriage. Immediate measures were consequently
taken for concluding the necessary arrangements; and this was done with
the less hesitation that the Marechal de Lesdiguieres (who for some time
after his arrival at Court had continued to anticipate that the pledge
given to him by the ministers would shortly be redeemed) had induced
both the one and the other to state that they would offer no opposition
to the alliance which had been determined.[134]

But this concession, which they were destined subsequently to deplore,
was all that could be extorted from the Princes, who considered
themselves aggrieved by the fact that so important a negotiation should
have been carried on without their participation, when special couriers
had been despatched to acquaint both the Cardinal de Joyeuse and the Due
d'Epernon with the pending treaty. The Comte de Soissons, moreover,
complained loudly and bitterly of the undue power of the ministers, and
especially inveighed against the Chancellor Sillery, whom he
unhesitatingly accused of extortion and avarice, of publicly making a
trade of justice to the dishonour of the nation, and of ruining those
who were compelled to solicit his protection. On this point alone he was
in accord with Concini; and it was to this mutual hatred of the
ministers that their partial good understanding must be attributed. The
reasons which induced the Marechal de Lesdiguieres to approve the
alliance we have already stated: the ducal crown which he was so anxious
to secure must have been irretrievably lost by any opposition on his
part to the proposed alliance, and this vision was for ever before his
eyes. The approbation of the Connetable de Montmorency, who had
originally declared his objection to so close a union between the two
countries, was purchased by a promise that the hand of one of the
Princesses of Mantua, niece to the Regent, should be conferred upon his
son; and the brilliant promise of the one marriage caused him to
overlook the probable perils of the other; while the Duc de Bouillon,
although he occasionally declared in the Council that he seriously
apprehended the result of so intimate a connection with Spain, never
remonstrated with any energy against the measure, and was believed by
those who knew him best to have already made his conditions with Philip.
On the departure of the two Princes, Marie urged the Duc de Guise to
afford her his support, together with that of his house, which he did
with a frankness worthy of record, concluding, however, with these
emphatic words: "I have but one favour to request of you, Madame; and
that is, that after this important service your Majesty will not
abandon us, as you have already once done, to the resentment of the
Princes of the Blood." [135]

The Duc d'Epernon, who had left the Court, as elsewhere stated, if not
in actual disgrace, at least mortified and disappointed, was now
recalled; and as his failing was well known, he was received on his
arrival at Fontainebleau with such extraordinary distinction that all
his past grievances were at once forgotten. Sillery, Villeroy, and
Concini overwhelmed him with respect and adulation, and his adherence to
the party of the Regent was consequently purchased before the question
had been mooted in his presence.

Meanwhile the English Ambassador declaimed loudly against the
contemplated alliance, which he declared to be unequivocally
antagonistic to the interests of his sovereign; and his undisguised
indignation so alarmed the Council that it was immediately resolved to
despatch the Duc de Bouillon on an extraordinary embassy to the Court of
London in order to appease the displeasure of James. The minister of the
United Provinces was equally violent in his opposition, and exerted all
his energies to prevent the conclusion of a treaty which he regarded as
fatal to the interests of the republic that he represented, but his
expostulations were disregarded. An envoy was sent to the Hague with
assurances of amity to Prince Maurice and the States-General; and
finally, the Marechal de Schomberg was instructed to visit the several
Protestant Princes of Germany in order to dispel any distrust which they
might feel at the probable results of an alliance so threatening to
their interests.[136]

These important measures concluded, the double marriage was proposed to
the Council, where the Prince de Conde and the Comte de Soissons, who
had recently returned to the capital, occupied their appointed seats;
and at the commencement of the proceedings, when the question of the
projected alliance had been submitted to the Assembly, M. de Conde
demanded that each should deliver his opinion according to his rank. The
Chancellor then opened the subject by a warm panegyric on the prudent
administration of the Queen-Regent, dwelling at great length upon the
extraordinary benefit which must accrue to the French nation from the
contemplated alliance with Spain; and he was followed by the Duc de
Guise, who, with more brevity but equal force, maintained the same
argument. "No deliberation," concluded the Duke, "can be required upon
so advantageous a proposal. We have only to thank God that her Majesty
has so happily accomplished the noble purpose with which heaven had
inspired her." As he resumed his seat the Connetable de Montmorency and
the Ducs de Nevers and d'Epernon warmly applauded his words; after which
the Marechaux de Bouillon and de Lesdiguieres declared their approval of
the alliance, simply expressing a hope that proper precautions would be
taken to prevent the treaty with Spain from proving prejudicial to the
interests of France in her more ancient alliances with other foreign
powers; and finally it became the turn of M. de Conde to declare his
sentiments. The young Prince had, however, been so astonished by the
fearless address of the Duc de Guise that he had entirely lost his
self-possession, and merely said with great coldness: "Since the affair
is decided, it was unnecessary to ask our advice."

The surprise was universal, as the general impression throughout the
Council had been that the two Princes had determined to attend the
meeting in order to oppose the projected marriages; a supposition which
the words immediately afterwards addressed to M. de Conde by his uncle
served to confirm. "You see, sir," said the Count, turning towards him
with an impatient gesture, "that we are treated here like valets."

The Regent, irritated by this remark, which was uttered so audibly as to
be generally overheard, was about to make some bitter rejoinder, when
Sillery, perceiving her intention, again possessed himself of the ear of
the Assembly; and it was ultimately concluded that the double marriage
should be proclaimed on the 25th of March, and that the young Duc de
Mayenne[137] should proceed to Spain as Ambassador-Extraordinary to
demand the hand of the Infanta.

At the close of the Council the general topic of discourse was the
extraordinary part played by the two Princes. It is well known that they
were both strongly opposed to the measure which had just been carried,
and their conduct was severally judged according to the particular
feeling of those by whom it was discussed; some asserting that it was
from a fear of the consequences of resistance, and others declaring that
they indulged a hope of profiting largely by so unexpected a neutrality.
The Duc de Montmorency was meanwhile furious at the contempt incurred by
the unmanly bearing of his son-in-law, M. de Conde. "Sir," he said, as
the Prince shortly afterwards approached him, "you neither know how to
resist with courage, or to yield with prudence." [138]

An unforeseen difficulty, however, now presented itself. The Spanish
Cabinet no longer entertained the same apprehensions of the power of
France that it had felt during the preceding year. The supremacy which
it had so reluctantly recognized had ceased to exist, and the arrogance
of Philip grew with this conviction; thus, where he had only a few
months previously condescended to solicit, he now prepared to impose
conditions, and the renewed negotiations were haughtily met by fresh
proposals. Upon the pretext that the Princesses of France brought with
them no right of succession to the crown, he declared his disinclination
to give the hand of the elder Infanta to the young King, upon which
Marie de Medicis replied that she was willing to accept his younger
daughter as the bride of Louis XIII, provided that he, in his turn,
were prepared to receive the Princesse Christine instead of Madame, as
by this arrangement she should be enabled to fulfil the pledge given by
the late King to the Duke of Savoy, that the eldest Daughter of France
should be united to the Prince of Piedmont.

This explicit declaration at once silenced Philip, who was by no means
desirous that Charles Emmanuel, whom he was anxious to crush, should by
so close a connexion with France secure an ally through whose support he
could not fail to protect himself against all aggression; and he
accordingly signified with somewhat less arrogance than before that he
was ready to ratify the original treaty, provided that Anne of Austria
were permitted to renounce, both for herself and her children, all claim
to the sovereignty of Spain.

This point having been conceded, immediate preparations were made for
the proclamation of the royal marriages; but the ceremony was
unavoidably delayed by the death of the Duke of Mantua, the
brother-in-law of the Regent, and did not take place until the 5th of
the following month,[139] on which day it was solemnly announced by the
Chancellor, in the presence of the Prince de Conti, the peers and
officers of the Crown, and the Spanish Ambassador, who gave his assent
to the duplicate alliance in the name of the King his master, and from
that period treated the little Princess with all the honours due to a
Queen of Spain; never addressing her save on his bended knee, and
observing many still more exaggerated ceremonies which excited at once
surprise and amusement at the French Court.

It will have been remarked that neither M. de Conde nor the Comte de
Soissons were present at the formal announcement, both having once more
withdrawn from the capital with the determination of continuing absent
until the majority of the King, in order to avoid signing the
marriage contract.

"The Queen," said M. de Soissons, when one of his friends would have
dissuaded him from so extreme a course, "is quite able to conclude
without our assistance the negotiation into which she has entered. God
grant that we at least may be spared all participation in the slight
offered to the memory of the late King, by refusing to falsify the
pledge which he gave to the Duke of Savoy, whose house has so long been
the firm ally of France."

Pity it is that this generous burst of high-mindedness and loyalty will
not bear analysis. Both the Princes had discovered that the professions
to which they had so complacently listened, and which had induced their
recent return to Court, had merely been intended to lure them thither at
a period when their presence was more than ever essential to the
interests of the Regency; and while M. de Conde found his position in
the Government as undefined and unsatisfactory as ever, and that his
vanity had been flattered at the expense of his interests, the Count on
his side saw the possession of Quilleboeuf more remote than ever, and
openly declared that they had both been duped.

This undisguised admission at once revealed the selfishness of the views
with which the malcontent Princes had lent themselves to the wishes of
Marie and her ministers; and assuredly no worse policy could have been
adopted than that by which they were again induced to exile themselves
from their proper sphere of action. Too many interests were, however,
served by their absence for either counsellor or courtier to point out
to the Queen the extreme danger of driving them to extremities, save in
the instance of the Connetable, who, more and more chagrined by the
pitiful and even precarious position occupied by his son-in-law,
remonstrated earnestly with the Regent upon the peril of the course
which she had been induced to pursue.

"Remember, Madame," he said, "that the civil wars and wretchedness of
which this nation has been the prey during the last few reigns all owed
their origin to the fatal advice given to Catherine de Medicis to
disregard the legitimate claims of the Princes of the Blood; and those
who would induce your Majesty to follow her example are more bent upon
the furtherance of their own fortunes, and the increase of their own
power, than anxious for the welfare of the state. Should your Majesty,
therefore, suffer yourself to be influenced by their counsels, I foresee
nothing in the future but anarchy and confusion."

Unfortunately, however, the close alliance of the veteran Duke with one
of those very Princes whose cause he thus warmly advocated, and his
enmity towards the Guises, deprived his remonstrances of the force which
they might otherwise have possessed, and Marie de Medicis consequently
disregarded the warning until after-events caused her to feel and
acknowledge its value. Supported by the House of Guise and the Duc
d'Epernon, assured of the good faith of the Connetable and the Marechaux
de Bouillon and de Lesdiguieres, as well as deeply incensed by the
bearing of the two Princes in the Council; and, moreover, urged by her
more immediate favourites to assert her dignity, and to display towards
the malcontents a coldness and indifference as marked as that which they
exhibited towards herself, she dismissed the subject from her thoughts
as one of slight importance, and turned all her attention to the
brilliant festivities by which the declaration of the royal marriages
was to be celebrated.[140]

The besetting sin of Marie de Medicis was a love of magnificence and
display, and one of her greatest errors a wilful disregard of the
financial exigencies which her profuse liberality had induced. Thus the
splendour of the preparations which were exciting the wonder and
curiosity of all Paris engrossed her so wholly that she had little time
for dwelling on contingent evils. The departure of the Princes had,
moreover, relieved her from the annoyance of encountering discontented
countenances and repellent frowns; and as she saw herself surrounded
only by beaming looks and complacent smiles, her spirits rose, and she
began to believe that her long-indulged vision of undisputed supremacy
was about to be realized.

It was a pleasant dream, and one in which the self-deceived Regent was
eagerly encouraged by those around her. The halls and galleries of the
Louvre were crowded with animated and obsequious courtiers, and the
apartments of Marie herself thronged by the greatest and proudest in the
land; all of whom appeared, upon so joyous an occasion, to have laid
aside their personal animosities and to live only to obey her behests.
Madame had also formed her separate Court, in the midst of which she
received, with the grace of a girl and the premature dignity of a Queen,
the elaborate homage of her future subjects; and meanwhile the young
Louis, delighted by a partial emancipation from ceremony and etiquette
for which he was indebted to the unusual movement about him, pursued his
favourite sport of bird-hunting in the gardens of the Tuileries, and
attached more importance to the feats of a well-trained sparrow-hawk
than to the probable qualities of the bride provided for him by the
policy of his royal mother.

And amid all this splendid excitement, gliding from one glittering group
to another with a quiet self-possession and a calm composure strangely
at variance with the scene around her, moved a lady whose remarkable
appearance must have challenged attention, even had her singular career
not already tended to make her an object of universal curiosity and
speculation. Short of stature and slender of form, with a step as light
and noiseless as that of an aerial being; her exquisitely-moulded
although diminutive figure draped in a robe of black velvet, made after
a fashion of which the severe propriety contrasted forcibly with the
somewhat too liberal exposure of the period; with a countenance pale
almost to sallowness; delicately chiselled features; and large eyes,
encircled by a dark ring, only a few shades less black than the long
lashes by which they were occasionally concealed; a mass of rich and
glossy hair, tightly banded upon her forehead, and gathered together in
a heavy knot, supported by long bodkins tipped with jewels, low in her
neck behind; and above all, with that peculiar expression spread over
her whole person which is occasionally to be remarked in individuals of
that exceptional organization which appears to be the lot of such as are
predestined to misery.

Not a Princess of the Blood, not a Duchess of the realm, but had a smile
and a courteous and eager word to bestow upon this apparently
insignificant personage, at whose signal even the door of the Queen's
private closet, closed against other intruders, opened upon the instant,
as though she alone of all that brilliant galaxy of rank and wealth were
to know no impediment, and to be subjected to no delay.

We have been somewhat prolix in our description of this extraordinary
woman, but we shall be pardoned when we explain that we here give the
portrait of Leonora Galigai, Marquise d'Ancre, the friend, confidante,
and foster-sister of Marie de Medicis.

It is, however, time to return to the festivities to which allusion has
already been made. Among these the most remarkable was a splendid
carousal which took place in the Place Royale, and which is elaborately
described by Bassompierre. The French Kings had originally held their
tourneys, tilts, and passages-at-arms in the Rue St. Antoine, opposite
the palace of the Tournelles; but the unfortunate death of Henri II, who
was killed there by the lance of the Duc de Montgomery, caused the spot
to be abandoned, and they were subsequently transferred to the Place
Royale, which had been built in the ancient park of the same palace.

The lists on the present occasion were two hundred and forty feet in
length, and were surrounded by barriers and platforms arranged in tiers,
and reaching to the first stories of the houses. Facing the lists was
erected the magnificent pavilion destined for their Majesties, which was
richly draped with blue and gold, and surmounted by the great national
standard, upon which the eagles of Austria and the arms of the Medici
were proudly quartered with the _fleurs-de-lis_ of France.

By command of the Queen the lists were held by the Ducs de Guise and de
Nevers and the Marquis de Bassompierre, an honour which cost each of the
individuals thus favoured the enormous sum of fifty thousand crowns; a
fact which is easily understood when it is considered that their retinue
consisted of five hundred persons and two hundred horses, the whole of
whom, men and animals, were clad and caparisoned in scarlet velvet and
cloth of silver. The number of spectators, exclusive of the Court and
the armed guards, was estimated at ten thousand; and from nine in the
morning until six in the evening the lists were constantly occupied.
Salvos of artillery, fireworks, and allegorical processions succeeded;
and the populace, delighted by "the glorious three days" of revel and
relaxation thus provided for them, forgot for the time to murmur at an
outlay which threatened them with increased exactions.

At the termination of this carousal, which was followed by balls,
banquets, and tiltings at the ring, the Court removed to Fontainebleau;
where their Majesties shortly afterwards received the Marquis de
Spinola, the Comte de Buquoy,[141] and Don Rodrigo Calderon,[142] who
were entertained with great magnificence, and lodged in the house of
Bassompierre.[143] At this period, indeed, everything sufficed as a
pretext for splendour and display; as Marie de Medicis especially
delighted to exhibit the brilliancy of her Court to the subjects of the
nation with which she was about to become so intimately allied. In this
endeavour she was ably seconded by the Guises and the Duc d'Epernon,
who, since the departure of the two Princes, had shared her intimacy
with the Marquis d'Ancre and his wife; while a new candidate for her
favour had moreover presented himself in the person of the young and
handsome Chevalier de Guise, the brother of the Duke,[144] who at this
time first appeared at Court, where he had the honour of waiting upon
her Majesty at table whenever she was the guest of the Duchess his
mother, or the Princesse de Conti his sister. His youth, high spirit,
inexhaustible gaiety, and extraordinary personal beauty rendered him
peculiarly agreeable to Marie, who displayed towards him a condescending
kindness which was soon construed by the Court gossips into a
warmer feeling.

Concini immediately took the alarm, and hastened to confide his
apprehensions to the ministers, whom he knew to be as anxious as himself
to undermine the influence of the Duc d'Epernon and the formidable
family to which he had allied his interests. In ridding themselves, by
neglect and disrespect, of the Princes of the Blood, the discomfited
confederates had anticipated undivided sway over the mind and measures
of the Regent; and their mortification was consequently intense when
they discovered that she had unreservedly flung herself into the party
of their enemies.

The annoyance of the ministers was, however, based rather on public
grounds than on personal feeling; but the case was far different with
the Marquis, who had been reluctantly compelled to acknowledge to
himself that he was indebted for his extraordinary fortune entirely to
the influence of his wife, and that he was individually of small
importance in the eyes of her royal mistress. This conviction had soured
his temper; and instead of responding to the ardent affection of
Leonora, he had recently revenged his outraged vanity upon the woman to
whom he owed all the distinction he had acquired. The high spirit of the
Marquise revolted at this ingratitude, and scenes of violence had
consequently occurred between them which tended to increase the schism,
and to render his position still more precarious. The tears of Leonora
were universally all-powerful with the Queen, who did not hesitate to
express her indignation at the unbecoming deportment of the aggrandized
parvenu; upon which, unaccustomed to rebuke, he threatened to withdraw
entirely from the Court and to reside at Amiens, a design which he,
however, abandoned when he discovered that it met with no opposition.

The Duc de Guise and the other members of his family, rejoicing in these
domestic discords, which they trusted would ultimately tend to the
disgrace of the arrogant Italian whose undue elevation had inspired them
with jealousy and disgust, warmly espoused the cause of Leonora, and
exerted all their power to irritate the mind of the Queen against the
offending Marquis. Nor was it long ere the ministers adopted the same
line of policy; and finally, Concini found himself so harassed and
contemned that he resolved to attach himself to the party of the
Princes, and to aid them in their attempt to overturn the

The Marechal de Bouillon had, as already stated, been despatched to
England, in order to render James I. favourable to the alliance with
Spain; and at the same time with strict instructions to induce him,
should it be possible, to declare his displeasure at the recent conduct
of the Protestants at Saumur, and especially at that of the Duc de
Rohan. This was a mission which Bouillon joyfully undertook, his
personal hatred and jealousy of the young Duke warmly seconding the
instructions of the ministers. Rohan had, however, been warned in time
of the intention of his enemies; and being in constant correspondence
with Prince Henry, he hastened to entreat his interest with his royal
father to avert the impending danger.

Unaware of this fact, the Marechal commenced his harangue by assuring
the English monarch of the respect and attachment felt for his person by
his own sovereign and his august mother, and their decided resolution
that the alliance with Spain should in no way interfere with the good
understanding which they were anxious to maintain with the Protestant
Princes. To this assurance James listened complacently; and encouraged
by his evident satisfaction, the envoy proceeded to inform him that he
was moreover authorized to state that the Pope had no intention of
exercising any severity against the reformed party in France, but would
confine himself to attempting their conversion by means of the pulpit
eloquence and good example of the Roman priesthood. The satisfaction of
James increased as he listened, and when he had warmly expressed his
gratification at the intelligence, Bouillon ventured to insinuate that
the Regent had been deeply wounded by the fact of his having entered
into the Protestant League of Germany; and besought him, in her name, to
be favourable to his Catholic subjects.

At this point of the discourse James cautiously replied that the League
involved no question of religion, but was purely a measure adopted for
the reciprocal security of the confederated states; and that, as
regarded the English Catholics, he would willingly permit the peaceable
exercise of their faith in his dominions, so soon as they should have
given pledges of their fidelity and obedience. Still undismayed,
Bouillon then exposed what was to himself personally the most important
feature of his mission, and urged his Britannic Majesty to express his
disapproval of the proceedings of the Assembly at Saumur, and especially
of the attitude assumed by the Duc de Rohan. Here, however, he was fated
to discover that James had not for a moment been the dupe of his
sophistical eloquence, ably as it had been exerted. A cloud gathered
upon the brow of the English monarch, and as the Marechal paused for a
reply, he was startled by the coldness and decision with which it was

"If the Queen your mistress," said James with marked emphasis, "sees fit
to infringe the edicts accorded to the Protestants of her kingdom, I
shall not consider that the alliance into which I have entered with
France ought to prevent me from assisting and protecting them. When my
neighbours are endangered from a cause in which I am personally
involved, I am naturally called upon to avert an evil that may extend to
myself. Believe me, moreover, Marshal, when I say that you will be wise
to effect a reconciliation with the Due de Rohan; and I shall cause him
to understand that such is my wish."

The ill-success of his mission was a bitter mortification to M. de
Bouillon, who, dispirited and crestfallen, returned to Paris to report
his failure. He, however, met with no sympathy, the ministers declaring
that he had failed through his neglect of their instructions, and of the
express orders of the Regent; while the Marechal complained on his side
that he had been selected for this delicate embassy from the express
intention, on the part of those who inveighed against him, of
accomplishing his disgrace.

M. de Lesdiguieres also, at this period, discovered that he had been the
dupe of his own ambition, and the tool of that of others. The ducal
brevet of which he had considered himself secure was refused to him upon
the plea that MM. de Brissac and de Fervaques were both senior marshals
to himself, and that such a favour could not be conferred upon him
without exciting their indignation. Vainly did he urge the promise made
to him by Henri IV; neither the Regent nor her ministers would yield;
when, irritated by the part which he had been made to play while his
co-operation was necessary to the accomplishment of their measures, and
the after-affront to which he was thus subjected, he retired from the
Court in disgust, and transferred his services to the Princes of
the Blood.

As we have already stated, Concini had, although less openly, followed
the same course; but, in the first instance, he had skilfully effected a
reconciliation with his wife, and induced her to assist him in his
endeavour to weaken the extraordinary influence which the Duc d'Epernon
and the Guises were rapidly acquiring over the Regent, who willingly
forgot, amid the constant amusement and adulation with which they
surrounded her, the cares and anxieties of government. The Duc de
Vendome had also attached himself to the Court party, and this domestic
league had consequently become more formidable than ever in the eyes of
those who saw their interests compromised by its continuance.

Marie could not, however, conceal from herself the absolute necessity of
conciliating the disaffected Princes before the arrival of the
ambassador of Philip, who was shortly expected to claim the hand of
Madame for the Prince of Spain; and she accordingly determined to pave
the way towards a reconciliation by thwarting the ambition of the great
nobles who were obnoxious to the Princes. The first opportunity that
presented itself of adopting this somewhat ungenerous policy was
afforded by the Duc de Vendome, who demanded the royal sanction to
preside over the States of Brittany, of which province he was governor;
but his intention having been discovered by the Comte de Soissons and M.
de Conde, they lost no time in warning their friends at Court against
such a concession, and in reminding them that he had allied himself with
the enemies of his royal father and the House of Bourbon; and that his
influence might prove fatal to the tranquillity of the nation should he
be permitted to exert it in a distant province, where his personal
consideration and the enormous wealth of his wife must conduce to render
him all-powerful. These arguments were impressed upon the Regent alike
by the ministers and by the Marquis d'Ancre, who no sooner saw himself
once more in favour than he exerted all his influence to undermine the
power of the rival faction; and as her private views warmly seconded
their representations, Marie instantly resolved to refuse the
coveted favour.

When, therefore, the Duc de Vendome proffered his request, the Queen met
it with a cold denial, and instructed M. de Brissac to proceed at once
to Brittany as his substitute; an affront which so stung the Duke that
he immediately challenged De Brissac; but before the meeting could take
place it was betrayed to the Queen, who, irritated by this disregard of
her authority, would not be induced to wait until a reconciliation could
be effected between them, but issued a peremptory order that M. de
Vendome should leave the Court on the instant, and retire to his estate
of Anet, and that the Marechal de Brissac should forthwith proceed to
Brittany. In vain did the fiery young Prince explain and expostulate;
Marie was inexorable; and although the Ducs de Guise and d'Epernon
interceded in his behalf, they were equally unsuccessful; nor did they
discontinue their entreaties until the Queen bade them rather look to
the stability of their own favour than hasten its termination by
upholding the cause of those who rebelled against her pleasure.

This incident afforded unmitigated satisfaction to the absent Princes;
but to the Comte de Soissons it was nevertheless only the herald of more
important concessions on the part of the Regent. In his temporary
retirement he had dwelt at leisure on his imaginary wrongs; his hatred
of the ministers had increased; and, above all, he had vowed the ruin of
the Chancellor. In his nephew the Prince de Conde he found a willing
listener and an earnest coadjutor; but from a very different impulse. M.
de Soissons panted for power, and loathed every impediment to the
gratification of his ambition; while the young Prince, less firm of
purpose, and more greedy of pleasure and ostentation, was wearied by the
obscurity of his existence, and the tedium of his self-imposed exile.

Concini, with admirable tact, played upon the weaknesses of both
Princes, and augmented their discontent; while he was at the same time
careful to exonerate the Regent from all blame. Conscious that without
her support he could not sustain for an hour the factitious power to
which he had attained, he laboured incessantly to throw the whole odium
of the disunion upon the ministers, who were fully as obnoxious to
himself as to the Princes.

"They it is," he continually repeated, "who are the true cause of your
estrangement. The Queen is, as I know, well disposed towards all the
Princes of the Blood; but Sillery, Villeroy, and Jeannin are constantly
representing to her the danger of allowing you to become too powerful.
Your real enemies are the ministers who are fearful of affording you the
opportunity of overbalancing their influence."

This assurance was too flattering to the self-love of the Princes to be
repulsed; they forgot that Concini himself had been as eager as those
whom he now inculpated to destroy their importance, and to limit their
power; they saw the great nobles, whose ambition was disappointed, or
whose vanity was wounded, successively espouse their cause, and they
were easily induced to believe that the time was not far distant when
they should triumph over their opponents, and be repaid for all their
mortifications. This was precisely the frame of mind into which Concini
had endeavoured to bring them; and so ably did he avail himself of his
advantage that at length, when on one occasion he found himself in
company with the Prince de Conde, the Comte de Soissons, and the
Marechaux de Bouillon and de Lesdiguieres, he induced them to unite with
him in attempting the ruin of the ministers.

He was, moreover, powerfully abetted in his intrigue by the Duke of
Savoy; who, outraged at the insult which had been offered to him by the
Regent in bestowing the hand of Madame Elisabeth, which had been
solemnly promised to the Prince of Piedmont, upon the Infant of Spain;
and who, moreover, hoped to profit by the internal dissensions of
France, and to recover through the medium of the disaffected Princes the
provinces which Henri IV had compelled him to relinquish in exchange for
the marquisate of Saluzzo, omitted no opportunity of endeavouring to
foment a civil war; from which, while he had nothing to apprehend, he
had the prospect of reaping great personal advantage.

Thus supported, Concini, who was aware of the intimate relations
subsisting between Charles Emmanuel and the Comte de Soissons, did not
hesitate to urge the Princes to a resolute resistance; nor was this seed
of rebellion scattered upon sterile soil. M. de Soissons pledged
himself that on his return from Normandy, where he was about to sojourn
for a short time, he would publicly insult the Chancellor; while M. de
Lesdiguieres, who was still furious at the disappointment to which he
had been subjected, and who was about to return to Dauphiny,
volunteered, should the Princes decide upon enforcing their claims, to
march ten thousand infantry and fifteen hundred horse to the gates
of Paris.

Nor did the vindictive Italian confine his efforts to thus tampering
with the disaffected Princes; he was equally indefatigable with the
Regent, who, even had she been disinclined to regard his own
representations, never neglected those of her beloved Leonora; and who
was, moreover, the better disposed to yield to his arguments because she
saw her foster-sister once more happy, and believed that the affection
of the Marquis had been restored to his wife through her own influence.

Success rendered Concini bold. He was aware that he had secured a strong
hold upon the confidence and regard of the malcontents; but when he
found the Queen inclined to make concessions in their favour which
threatened to invest them with a power as dangerous to his own interests
as that now wielded by the ministers, he did not hesitate to dissuade
her from her purpose. Anxious to conciliate the Comte de Soissons, Marie
declared her determination to effect this desirable result by bestowing
upon him the government of Ouilleboeuf, the refusal of which had been
the original cause of his estrangement; a resolve from which she was,
however, diverted by the representations of the Italian that such a
concession, thus tardily and reluctantly made, must be fatal to her
dignity, and would only lead to fresh demands on the part of the Prince,
whose insatiable ambition was no secret; while, fearful lest his own
representations should fail to change her purpose, he employed his
confidential friend and ally the Baron de Luz to entreat of the Due de
Guise to second his endeavour. In this attempt, however, the Marquis
failed through an excess of subtlety, as the Duke, outraged by this
double treason, not only refused to lend himself to so dishonourable an
act of treachery, but immediately informed M. de Soissons of the deceit
which was practised towards him; and feeling deeply aggrieved moreover
by the affront that had been offered to Cesar de Vendome, he declared
himself prepared to espouse the cause of the Princes against the
machinations of the Marquis d'Ancre. His example was followed by the
whole of his family, as well as by the Cardinal de Joyeuse and the Due
de Bellegarde; and thus the unfortunate Regent was suddenly deprived of
all her friends with the sole exception of the Duc d'Epernon, who,
either from an excess of pride which would not permit him to humble
himself so far as to induce him to pay his court to the Princes from
whom he had received so many and such bitter mortifications, or from the
state of indisposition under which he was at that period labouring,
refused to take any share in the intrigues of the Court.

Concini became alarmed; he had so long been the spoilt child of fortune
that every reverse overthrew his self-possession; and in the first
paroxysm of his terror he considered himself lost. Chance and his own
ready cunning still, however, stood his friends. The Grand Equerry
(Bellegarde) was, with the insane superstition of the time, accused of
having suborned witnesses to prove that the Marquis had endeavoured by
means of a magic mirror to inspire some of the highest ladies of the
Court with a passion for his person; and as Concini demanded reparation
for this injury, an investigation was instituted, to effect which it was
necessary that summonses should be issued to the witnesses. Sillery, to
whom the Italian was peculiarly obnoxious, and who was the friend of the
Duc de Bellegarde, made some difficulty when called upon to affix the
official seal to these documents; upon which Concini hastened to
complain to the Regent that the Chancellor was endeavouring to sacrifice
him to his enemies; and Marie, indignant no less at the apparent
injustice shown to her favourite than at the delay evinced in obeying
her commands, made no attempt to disguise her displeasure.

On the other hand, the Comte de Soissons, who still hoped to obtain from
the courtesy, or to wring from the fears, of the Regent the promised
government of Quilleboeuf, made a voyage into Normandy, which so alarmed
the Marechal de Fervaques, who held the city, and who apprehended that
the Prince was about to possess himself of it by force, that he
privately reinforced the garrison; a fact which M. de Soissons no sooner
ascertained than he bitterly upbraided the Marechal, and a quarrel
ensued between them that produced new difficulties.

Unfortunately Marie de Medicis was at this moment surrounded by evil and
interested advisers, by whom she was induced to embroil herself, not
only with the Princes of the Blood and great nobles, but also with the
Parliament, and eventually with the Protestants. The misunderstanding
which had arisen between the Duc de Rohan and the Marechal de Bouillon
unhappily produced a disunion among the Huguenot party which laid them
open to the machinations of their enemies; and Marie, whose zeal for the
Romish communion always made her eager to harass and oppress the
Protestants, was readily persuaded to undertake the annullation of the
edicts by which their allegiance had hitherto been secured. Bouillon had
never forgiven the Duc de Rohan for the energetic part which he had
played at the Assembly of Saumur; and secure of his influence over the
mind of the Regent, who felt grateful for the offer of his services upon
that occasion, and the efforts which he had made to carry out her
wishes, he resolved to undermine the interests of the young Duke, and to
attempt to deprive him of his government of St. Jean-d'Angely which had
been bestowed upon him by Henri IV.

Apprised of his intention, M. de Rohan hastened to Court in order to
justify himself, but the mind of Marie had been poisoned against him,
and she treated his remonstrances with chilling indifference. Aware that
the mayor of the town had been bought by his enemies, and that should
that official be continued in his authority he must himself inevitably
lose his government, and thereby forfeit all his influence, the Duke no
sooner saw the period of the municipal election approach than,
pretexting the dangerous illness of his brother, he took his leave of
the Court and hastened back to St. Jean-d'Angely in order to compel the
retirement of the obnoxious functionary. As he had anticipated, on the
day of the canvass a letter was received from the ministers, ordaining
the re-election of the mayor without modification or explanation of any
kind; an affront which so exasperated M. de Rohan that he at once
resisted its enforcement; declaring that the Regent had been misinformed
with regard to the state of the town, which, according to the terms of
the letter, was inferred to be divided into parties; and that, as he
would undertake to convince her Majesty of the error under which she
laboured, they had only to proceed at once to a new election.

Bouillon had been prepared for this opposition; and found it easy to
induce Marie, whose jealousy of power always rendered her on such
occasions as the present a mere tool in the hands of her _soi-disant_
friends, to forward a second and more stringent order for the
continuance in office of the existing mayor. The Duke, however,
persisted in disregarding the mandate; and after having despatched his
secretary to the Louvre to explain the reasons of his resistance, he
proceeded to authorize the nomination of three persons, all eligible for
the office, in order that the Regent might make her own selection; and,
while awaiting her reply, the keys of the city were confided to the
senior sheriff; and he found himself complete master of the place.[146]

Nothing could exceed the indignation of Marie de Medicis on learning
this contempt of her authority. The messengers of M. de Rohan were
forthwith committed to the Bastille; orders were issued to the Duchess
his mother, to his wife, and to his sisters, not to leave the capital;
and preparations were even made to besiege the Duke in St. Jean-d'Angely
as a rebel. Manifestoes to the Protestants were next put forth by both
parties; that of the Queen-mother protesting that the aggressive
measures which she was about to adopt involved no question of faith, but
were destined to be directed simply against M. de Rohan as an
individual; and that consequently they would in no degree affect the
edicts of pacification, which would be rigidly observed; and calling
upon all faithful subjects of the King, whatever might be their
religious persuasion, to aid and abet the effort by which she trusted to
subdue the nascent rebellion threatened by so gross a disregard of the
constituted authorities of the realm. The Duke, on his side, threw
himself upon the justice and generosity of his co-religionists,
reminding them that it was through zeal for their common faith that he
had incurred the resentment of the Court; and having so done, he
hastened to place the city in such a state of defence as should enable
him to resist the attack of the royal troops.

The resolute position thus assumed by M. de Rohan alarmed the ministers;
who apprehensive that the neighbouring provinces, already disaffected by
the negative result of the Assembly of Saumur, would support the cause
of so bold a recusant, and thus renew the civil war by which the nation
had formerly been convulsed, became anxious to temporize. Negotiations
were accordingly commenced between the adverse factions; and it was
ultimately agreed that the keys of the city should be restored to the
mayor from whom they had been taken, and some subaltern officers
displaced by the Duke reinstated in their functions, and that so soon as
this arrangement had been completed a new election should take place, by
which M. de Rohan was to be at liberty to substitute others more
agreeable to himself. This absurd ceremony was accordingly performed;
the royal authority was supposed to have enforced its recognition; and
the Duke, by a merely visionary concession, preserved his

Meanwhile the young Duc de Mayenne had taken leave of the Court, and
departed with a brilliant suite for Madrid, to demand the hand of the
Infanta for the King of France; and on the same day the Duque de
Pastrano left the Spanish capital on his way to Paris to solicit that of
Madame Elisabeth for the Prince of Spain.

The ducal envoy reached the French capital early in the month of July,
accompanied by his brothers Don Francisco and Don Diego de Silva and a
number of Spanish grandees, having been received with extraordinary
honours in every town which he had traversed after passing the frontier.
The Ducs de Luxembourg[148] and de Nevers met him beyond the gate of the
city, accompanied by five hundred nobles on horseback, sumptuously
attired in velvet and cloth of gold and silver, with their horses
splendidly caparisoned. The retinue of the Iberian grandee was not,
however, as the French courtiers had fondly flattered themselves that it
would have been, eclipsed by the lavish magnificence of their own
appearance, his personal costume being of the most splendid description,
his horses and equipages costly and gorgeous, and his numerous train of
attendants habited in a livery of extreme richness.

On the 16th of the month the Spanish Duke had his first audience of the
young King, at which were assembled the Princes of the Blood, all the
high nobility of France, and the Cardinals de Sourdis and de Gondy.[149]
The two latter dignitaries endeavoured to excuse themselves, on the
pretext that their rank as Princes of the Church would not permit them
to seat themselves below the Princes of the Blood; but this pretension
on their part was considered so monstrous, even by the Regent herself,
that, anxious as she was to secure their attendance in order to render
the ceremony more imposing to the Spanish envoy, she did not venture to
support them in their arrogant assumption of equality with the first
subjects of the Crown; and she accordingly informed them in reply that
upon the present occasion there would be no regard paid to precedence,
but that each individual who was entitled to attend the audience would
be at liberty to seat himself as he saw fit.

Thus assured, the two prelates, attired in their rich robes of
violet-coloured velvet, entered the hall; and were about to take their
places near the royal dais, when the Princes of the Blood, led by M. de
Conde, hastily passed them, and ranged themselves in a line on the right
hand of the King. The Cardinals then proceeded to adopt a similar
position beside the Queen-Regent, but they were immediately displaced by
the Dowager Princess of Conde, her daughter-in-law, and Madame de
Conti; and upon finding themselves thus excluded from the immediate
neighbourhood of the sovereign, they withdrew in great displeasure, no
effort being made to detain them.

Nor was this the only altercation which took place before the
commencement of the ceremony; and the one which we are about to relate
is so characteristic of the manners of that age among the great, that it
must not be omitted. The Duc de Nevers had taken his place upon the
bench appropriated to the Princes of the Blood, immediately below M. de
Soissons, who, being engaged in conversation with his brother, the
Prince de Conti, did not remark the intrusion. M. de Conde, however, who
was seated above his two uncles, at once discovered the enormity of
which the Duke had been guilty, and he forthwith commenced pushing the
Prince de Conti so violently that he excited his attention; and his
purpose was no sooner understood than his example was imitated with an
energy which was instantly communicated to the Comte de Soissons, who in
his turn so pressed upon M. de Nevers that he became extremely
irritated, and demanded why he was subjected to such ungracious

"Because this is not a place for you," haughtily retorted the Prince de

The Duc de Nevers made a bitter rejoinder, and high words ensued, which
were at length terminated by the Prince, who said significantly: "We can
explain ourselves better elsewhere, M. le Duc; follow me."

The conversation had, however, been overheard by the Marechal de
Bouillon, who hastened to inform the King that the two Princes had
retired for a hostile purpose; upon which Louis ordered them to be
instantly recalled, and after having rebuked M. de Nevers for assuming a
place to which he was not entitled, insisted upon their immediate

The Duque de Pastrano was then introduced by M. de Guise and his two
brothers; and after the usual ceremony of welcome on the one side and
obeisance on the other, he presented to the King and his royal mother
the letters with which he had been entrusted by his sovereign. Thence he
proceeded to the apartments of Madame Elisabeth, where he delivered the
missives of the Prince of Spain; after which he was conducted to the
presence of the other Children of France; and finally, having paid his
respects to every member of the royal family, he was attended by a
brilliant retinue of nobles to the residence which had been appropriated
to his use during his sojourn in the capital.

So unparalleled was the splendour displayed upon this occasion, that the
year 1612 was long known in Europe as "the year of magnificence," the
festivities having been alike gorgeous throughout France, Spain, and
Naples; and considerable mortification was experienced in the former
kingdom when it was ascertained, on the return of the Duc de Mayenne,
that the display made in Paris, extraordinary as it was, could not
equal that exhibited at Lerma and Madrid. In the former city the
favourite of Philip had received the French envoy in his own palace, and
had lodged him in an apartment hung with tapestry of silk and gold,
intermingled with emeralds and rubies. In Madrid it is true that the
mourning still worn for the late Queen somewhat modified the brilliancy
of the spectacle; but as every effort had been made to counteract the
effect of this drawback, it became rather a singular feature than an
actual blot upon the gorgeousness of the spectacle presented by the
Spanish capital.[151]

On the 25th of August the marriage articles were signed between Madame
Elisabeth and the Prince of Spain, the dowry of the girl-bride being
five hundred thousand golden crowns; after which the Duque de Pastrano,
laden with magnificent presents, and satiated with pleasure and
festivity, took his leave of the French Court, and left Paris on his
return to Madrid.

The contract between Louis XIII and the Infanta was meanwhile completed
on the 22d of the month in the Spanish capital; and at the close of the
ceremony the Duc de Mayenne was conducted to an audience-chamber in
which Philip was seated with the betrothed Prince and Princess on his
right and left, awaiting his arrival. After having profoundly saluted
the King in perfect silence, the Duke approached the Infanta, to whom he
addressed himself as to the Queen of France. His compliment was
courteously received; and before the termination of this private
audience, when on taking leave he would have bent his knee and kissed
the hand of the sovereign and his son, each in succession saluted him
upon the cheek; an honour as great as it was unexpected, particularly in
a Court where the observances of strict etiquette were more rigidly
enforced than elsewhere in Europe.

The festivities consequent upon the double betrothal occupied several
days, and they no sooner came to a close than the French envoy demanded
a parting audience of his future sovereign, at which he entreated of her
to entrust him with some letter or message for the King his master.

"Tell him," said the Princess eagerly, "that I am very impatient to see

"Oh, Madame!" exclaimed the Condesa d'Altamira, her _gouvernante_, "what
will his Majesty of France think of your Royal Highness when my Lord
Duke informs him that you are in such haste to become a wife?"

"You have always taught me to tell the truth," was the ready retort; and
charged with this sincere and singular communication, M. de Mayenne
returned to Fontainebleau.

The Duke of Savoy had no sooner ascertained that the hand of Madame
Elisabeth was definitely pledged to the Spanish Prince than he declared
to the Queen-Regent his readiness to receive that of the Princesse
Christine for his own son; and for awhile Marie had affected to favour
the alliance; but her great ambition was to see each of her daughters
upon a throne, and she had accordingly entered into a negotiation with
the English monarch for effecting a marriage between the younger
Princess and Henry, Prince of Wales, who was about to be betrothed to
the Princess of Savoy. She was the more encouraged to hope for the
success of this proposal as James had already been a candidate for the
hand of her elder daughter; nor was she deterred by the knowledge that
the Grand Duke of Tuscany[152] had offered one of his sisters, with an
enormous dowry, to the British Prince.[153]

So eager, indeed, was Marie de Medicis to effect this alliance for the
Princesse Christine, that the English Ambassador did not hesitate to
declare to his Government that from the manner in which the affair had
been urged upon him by M. de Villeroy, he felt a conviction that his
royal master might conclude the treaty of marriage whenever he
considered it expedient to do so, and might moreover make whatever
conditions he thought proper.

While the negotiations were still pending, however, the lamentable death
of the high-spirited and promising young Prince terminated at once the
struggle for his hand; and Marie de Medicis, to her undisguised regret,
found herself unable to realize one of her most cherished hopes.

On the 1st of November the Comte de Soissons, who was suddenly attacked
by scarlet fever while still engaged in projects of ambition and
revenge, also breathed his last; an event which was destined to effect a
complete change in the aspect of the Court. By his decease the
governments of Dauphiny and Normandy, as well as the appointment of
Grand Master of the King's Household, became vacant; and four-and-twenty
hours had not elapsed before as many claimants presented themselves,
eager to secure these coveted honours. The Prince had, however, left an
infant son, to whom the Queen-Regent immediately transferred both the
government of Dauphiny and the place at Court recently held by his
father. As regarded Normandy, she resolved to retain it in her own
hands, and to appoint a lieutenant-governor to whom she could confide
the command of the province; but she had no sooner declared her
intention than she was met by the expostulations of M. de Conti, who
reminded her that having formerly ceded the government of Dauphiny to
the Comte de Soissons at her request, he considered himself entitled to
succeed to that which had now become available by his death.

Determined to retain her possession of the province, and yet fearful of
exciting once more the resentment of the Princes of the Blood, the
Regent was compelled to propose a compromise, which, after some
hesitation, was accepted by M. de Conti. It will be remembered that the
Comte d'Auvergne, Charles de Valois, recently become Duc d'Angouleme,
had been committed to the Bastille by Henri IV for conspiring with his
father and sister against the person of the King and the tranquillity of
the realm; nor is it probable that Marie de Medicis would have felt the
slightest inclination to show any indulgence to the step-brother of
Madame de Verneuil, had it not on the present occasion been a matter of
policy to do so. The Marquis de Coeuvres was accordingly instructed to
visit him in his prison, and to offer him his liberty provided he would
resign to the Prince de Conti his government of Auvergne; and although
the Duke at first evinced extreme reluctance to comply with this
condition, he was ultimately induced to yield to the solicitations of
the royal envoy, who convinced him that the freedom for which he yearned
so eagerly could be purchased at no other price.[154]

The body of the Comte de Soissons was conveyed to the Chartreuse at
Gaillon, and there deposited in the tomb of his ancestors;[155] and
before the close of the month the Queen-Regent assisted, at the Hotel de
Soissons in Paris, at the baptism of his son, which was celebrated in
the presence of all the most distinguished personages of the Court.[156]

At this period a new cabal was organized which effectually neutralized
all attempt at opposition. The chief of this formidable faction was the

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