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

Part 3 out of 6

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enough openly to declare itself.

Under these circumstances, however, it is not surprising that the
marriage of the heir-apparent should have excited the most absorbing
interest not only at the French Court, but throughout all Europe. The
health of Louis XIII continued feeble and uncertain; he rallied slowly
and painfully after each successive attack; and since the visit of the
Duke of Buckingham to Paris his repugnance to Anne of Austria had become
more marked than ever; while the young Queen in her turn resented his
neglect with augmented bitterness, and loudly complained of the
injustice to which she should be subjected were the children of Gaston
d'Anjou to inherit the throne of France. The Princes of the Blood
supported Anne in this objection; for neither Conde nor the Comte de
Soissons could, as a natural consequence, regard with favour any measure
which must tend to diminish the chances of their own succession; while
the latter, moreover, desired to become himself the husband of
Mademoiselle de Montpensier, and the Princesse de Conde aspired to unite
her own daughter, still a mere infant, to the brother of the King. The
other great nobles were also disinclined to see the young Prince form so
close an alliance with the Duc de Guise; and the Duke of Savoy was eager
to bestow on him the hand of Marie de Gonzaga, the heiress of
Montferrat, and thus to secure to himself a powerful ally against the
perpetual aggressions of his numerous enemies.

D'Ornano, as we have seen, had been commanded to renew the negotiation
of marriage between Gaston and the bride destined for him by Henri IV,
but private reasons decided him against the measure; and, in
consequence of his representations, the Prince formally refused to obey
the expressed wishes of the King. The moment was a favourable one for
Richelieu, who had long sought a pretext for ridding himself of
Monsieur's favourite friend and counsellor; and he accordingly lost no
time in impressing upon Louis that, as the young Prince was entirely
governed by M. d'Ornano, no concession could be expected from him until
that individual had been removed from about his person. Nor was the
Marechal alone an object of suspicion and uneasiness to the minister,
for it was not long ere he ascertained that the party of the Prince was
hourly becoming more formidable, and that were the cabal not crushed in
its infancy, it might very soon tend to endanger at once the safety of
the sovereign and the tranquillity of the kingdom; while he also learned
through his emissaries that his own security was no less involved in the
issue than that of Louis himself.

Under these circumstances Richelieu at once felt that the only method by
which he could hope to control Gaston was by proceeding with the utmost
severity against all such persons as should be convicted of endeavouring
to excite the mind of the Prince against his royal brother; a policy
which Louis eagerly adopted. In accordance with this resolution, during
the sojourn of the Court at Fontainebleau in the month of May, the King
on his return from a hunting-party, after having retired to rest,
suddenly rose again, dressed himself, and at ten o'clock at night
summoned M. d'Ornano to his presence, whom he entertained for a time
with an account of the day's sport, and other inconsequent conversation,
until Du Hallier, the captain of the bodyguard, made his appearance at
the head of his archers, and approaching the Marechal, announced to him
that he was his prisoner; requesting him to withdraw from the royal
apartment, whence he conducted him to the chamber in which the Duc de
Biron had been confined twenty-four years previously,[95] while Madame
d'Ornano at the same time received an order to quit Paris upon the
instant, and the two brothers of the disgraced courtier, together with
MM. Deageant, Modena, and other partisans of the Marechal, were
also arrested.

By this bold stroke of policy the Cardinal effectually paralyzed the
power of Monsieur; although this conviction was far from allaying his
personal apprehensions. Among the favourites of the Prince he had
equally marked for destruction the young Prince de Chalais,[96] the Duc
de Vendome, and his brother the Grand Prior; but Richelieu feared by
venturing too much to lose all, for his authority had not at that period
reached its acme; and he felt all the danger which he must incur by
adopting measures of such violence against two Princes of the Blood.

The indignation of Monsieur was, moreover, thoroughly excited, and he
did not scruple either to reproach his royal brother, or to utter
threats against those who had aided in the arrest of the Marechal, whose
restoration to liberty he vehemently demanded; and as his
representations failed to produce the desired effect, he indulged in a
thousand extravagances which only tended to strengthen the hands and to
forward the views of Richelieu, who found no difficulty in widening the
breach between Louis and the imprudent Prince by whom his authority was
openly questioned. In vain did Marie de Medicis endeavour to impress
upon him the danger of such ill-advised violence, Gaston persisted in
upholding his favourite; until the King, irritated beyond endurance,
exhibited such marked displeasure towards his brother that the weak and
timid Prince began to entertain fears for his own safety, and became
suddenly as abject as he had previously been haughty; abandoned D'Ornano
to his fate; and after signing an act, in which he promised all honour
and obedience to the sovereign, carried his condescension so far as to
visit the Cardinal at his residence at Limours, whither he had retired
on the pretext of indisposition.

Richelieu triumphed: and ere long the Duc de Vendome and his brother
were arrested in their turn, and conveyed to the citadel of Amboise. The
Comte de Soissons, the second Prince of the Blood, fled the Court in
alarm, and took refuge in Savoy; while edict after edict was fulminated
against the nobles, which threatened all their old and long-cherished
privileges. The costume of each separate class was determined with a
minuteness of detail which exasperated the magnificent courtiers, who
had been accustomed to attire themselves in embroidery and cloth of
gold, in rich laces, and plumed and jewelled hats, and who suddenly
found themselves reduced to a sobriety of costume repugnant to their
habits; the Comte de Bouteville, of the haughty house of Montmorency,
who had dared to disregard the revived law against duelling, lost his
head upon the scaffold; and all castles, to whomsoever belonging, which
could not aid in the protection of the frontiers, or of the towns near
which they were situated, were ordered to be demolished.

The reign of Richelieu had commenced.

Meanwhile the Court had taken up its residence at Fontainebleau; where
Louis, deaf to the murmurs of his great nobles, passed his time in
hunting, a sport of which he was passionately fond; while Marie de
Medicis and the Cardinal endeavoured, by every species of dissipation,
to lull him into acquiescence with the perilous measures they
were adopting.

Always sickly and querulous, Louis was a prey to dark thoughts and
fearful anticipations of early dissolution; and even while he suffered
himself to be amused by the hawking, dancing, and feasting so lavishly
provided for his entertainment, he was never at fault, during his
frequent fits of moroseness and ill-humour, for subjects of complaint.
His brother, Gaston d'Anjou, whom he at once feared and hated, was a
constant theme of distrust; while the Comte de Soissons, the Duc de
Montmorency, and the Prince de Chalais, his sworn adherents, were at
times equally obnoxious to the suspicious and gloomy young sovereign.
Then he bewailed the treachery of the Queen, whom he believed, through
the agency of Richelieu, to be engaged in an intrigue with Spain
dangerous to his own interests; mourned over himself because he had
weakly suffered his authority to be usurped by a subject, and had not
moral courage to redeem the error; and in his most confidential moments
even inveighed against Richelieu with the bitterness of a sullen
schoolboy, declaring that it was he who had poisoned the mind of his
brother, estranged him from his wife, and deprived him of the support of
the Princes of the Blood; forgetting, or wilfully overlooking the fact,
that a single effort on his own part must have sufficed for his
emancipation from this rule of iron.

On the departure of the Court for Fontainebleau, the Cardinal, according
to his usual custom, had excused himself on the plea of ill-health from
following the King; while Gaston d'Anjou, who, despite the concession
that he had made, still deeply resented the affront to which he had been
subjected by the arrest of his favourite, had remained in Paris.
Richelieu, was, however, far from inactive in his retreat; but, while he
was occupied in further schemes of self-aggrandizement, the partisans
of the Prince were equally busy in devising the means of ridding
themselves of a thrall so obnoxious to their pride; and after mooting
several measures which were successively abandoned from their apparent
impracticability, it was at length decided that, under the pretext of a
hunting-party, nine of the conspirators should proceed to Fleury, and
there assassinate their common enemy. Of this number was the unfortunate
Chalais; who, however, before the execution of the project, confided it
to a friend, by whom he was warned against any participation in so
dangerous an attempt, and advised immediately to apprise the Cardinal of
his danger. As the young Prince hesitated to follow this counsel, the
Commandeur de Valence, who was anxious to save him from, as he believed,
inevitable destruction, assured him that should he fail to communicate
the conspiracy to the minister, he would himself instantly reveal it;
upon which Chalais, intimidated by the threat, consented to accompany
him to Richelieu, and to confess the whole.

Having listened attentively to all the details of the plot, the Cardinal
courteously thanked his informants, and requested them to proceed to
Fontainebleau, and to repeat what they had told him to the King. He was
obeyed; and an hour before midnight Louis despatched a body of troops to
Fleury, with instructions to obey the orders of the minister whatever
might be their nature; while Marie de Medicis at the same time commanded
the officers of her household and a number of the nobility to accompany
the royal guards.

As Chalais had asserted, at three o'clock on the following morning the
clerks of the kitchen to the Duc d'Anjou arrived at Fleury, and
immediately commenced their preparations for the dinner of the Prince;
upon which Richelieu caused them to be informed that he should leave the
house at the entire disposal of Monsieur; and, escorted by the armed
party that had been sent for his protection, he set out at once for
Fontainebleau, where he had no sooner arrived than he went without the
delay of a moment to the apartment of the King's brother. Gaston was in
the act of leaving his bed, and was evidently alarmed by the sudden
appearance of so unexpected a visitor; but the Cardinal, affecting not
to perceive his embarrassment, merely reproached him in the most courtly
terms for the precaution which he had taken, assuring him that he should
have felt honoured had he relied upon his hospitality; but adding that,
since his Highness had shown himself desirous of avoiding all restraint,
he was happy to be at least enabled to offer him the use of his
residence. The Prince, taken by surprise, and utterly disconcerted at
the failure of so well organized a plot, could only stammer out his
acknowledgments; and the Cardinal had no sooner heard them to an end
than he requested admission to the King, where, having briefly
expatiated upon his escape, he requested permission with ably-acted
earnestness to retire from the Court.

As we have shown, Louis was by no means slow in deprecating the
self-constituted authority of Richelieu; but he was nevertheless so well
aware of his own incapacity, that the idea of being thus abandoned by a
minister whose grasp of intellect and subtle policy had complicated the
affairs of government until he was compelled to admit his own utter
powerlessness to disentangle the involved and intricate mesh, terrified
him beyond expression; nor was Marie de Medicis, whom he hastened to
summon on perceiving the apparently resolute position assumed by
Richelieu, less alarmed than himself.

Had the scene been enacted by three individuals of mean station, it
would have been merely a painful and a degrading one, for each was alike
deceiving and deceived; but as they stood there, a crowned King, a
Princess born "under the purple," and a powerful minister, it presented
another and a more extraordinary aspect. Stolid and resolute as were
alike the mother and the son, they were totally unable to cope with the
superior talent and astuteness of the man whom they had themselves
raised to power; and before the termination of the interview Richelieu
had convinced both that his counsels and services were essential to
their own safety.

This point conceded, the wily Cardinal was enabled to make his own
terms. He received the most solemn assurances of support, not only
against the brother of the sovereign, but also against the Princes of
the Blood and all the great nobles; while a promise was moreover made,
and ratified, that he should have immediate information of every
attempt to injure him in the estimation of the King; and, finally, he
was offered a bodyguard, over which he was to possess the most
absolute control.

This exhibition of royal weakness strengthened the hands of the haughty
minister, who thus became regal in all save name and blood; and
encouraged him to pursue his system of dissimulation. As mother and son
vied with each other in opening before him the most brilliant
perspective ever conceded to a subject, he feigned a reluctance and a
humility which only tended to render their entreaties the more earnest
and the more pressing; until at length, although with apparent
unwillingness, he was prevailed upon to retain his post, and to crush
his enemies by the exhibition of a splendour and authority hitherto
without parallel in the annals of ministerial life.[97]

It was not to be anticipated that under such circumstances as these the
imprudent Chalais could retain one chance of escape. Aware of his favour
with the King, his fall at once relieved Richelieu of a rival, and
taught the weak and capricious monarch to quail before the power of the
man whom he had thus invested with almost unlimited authority; and the
natural result ensued. Unwilling to admit that he sought to revenge an
attempt against his own person, the Cardinal caused the unfortunate
young noble to be accused of a conspiracy against the life of the King
himself, and a design to effect a marriage between Anne of Austria and
the Duc d'Anjou. Judges were suborned; a court was assembled; the gay
and gallant Chalais, whose whole existence had hitherto been one round
of pleasure and splendour, and who was, as we have fully shown, too
timid and too inexperienced to enact, even with the faintest chance of
success, the character of a conspirator, was put upon his trial for
treason, and condemned to die upon the scaffold; nor did the efforts of
his numerous friends avail to avert his fate.

Louis forgot his former affection for his brilliant favourite in his
fear of the minister who sought his destruction; while the heartless and
ungrateful Gaston, wilfully overlooking the fact that it was in his
service that the miserable young man had become compromised, actually
appeared as one of his accusers; his relatives were forbidden to
intercede in his behalf; and finally, when some zealous friends
succeeded in hiding away not only the royal executioner, but also the
city functionary, in the hope of delaying his execution, the emissaries
of the Cardinal secured the services of a condemned felon, who, on a
promise of unconditional pardon, consented to fill the office of
headsman; and who, between his inexperience and his horror at his
unwonted task, performed his hideous functions so imperfectly that it
was only on the thirty-fourth stroke that the head of the martyred young
man was severed from his body.[98]

During the progress of this iniquitous trial (which took place in the
city of Nantes, whither Louis had proceeded to convoke the States of
that province) both Marie de Medicis and Richelieu were assiduously
labouring to accomplish the marriage of Gaston with Mademoiselle de
Montpensier; nor does there remain the slightest doubt that it was to
the splendid promises held out by his mother and her minister on this
occasion, that the cowardly and treacherous conduct of the Prince
towards his unfortunate adherent must be ascribed. A brilliant appanage
was allotted to him; he was to assume the title of Duc d'Orleans; to
occupy a post in the Government; and to enjoy a revenue of a million
of francs.

Prospects far less flattering than these would have sufficed to purchase
Gaston, whose besetting sin throughout his whole life was the most
disgusting and inordinate selfishness; but when his consent had been
obtained, a new difficulty supervened on the part of the King, whose
distrustful character would not permit him to perceive the eagerness
with which the Cardinal urged forward the alliance without misgivings
which were fostered by his immediate friends. Richelieu, however, soon
succeeded by his representations in convincing the suspicious monarch of
the policy of thus compelling his brother to a thorough subjection to
his own authority, which could not have been enforced had Monsieur
allied himself to a Princess of Austria or Spain; an argument which was
instantly appreciated, and a royal command was accordingly despatched to
the elected bride to join the Court at Nantes, under the escort of the
Duc de Bellegarde, the Marechal de Bassompierre, and the
Marquis d'Effiat.

In accordance with this invitation, Mademoiselle de Montpensier arrived
at Nantes on the 1st of August; and on the 5th of the same month, while
the wretched and deserted Chalais was exposed to the most frightful
torture, the marriage took place. "There was little pomp or display,"
says Mezeray, "either at the betrothal or at the nuptial ceremony."
_Feux de joie_ and salvos of artillery alone announced its completion.
The mass was, however, performed by Richelieu himself; and so thoroughly
had he succeeded in convincing Louis of the expediency of the measure,
that the delight of the young King was infinitely more conspicuous than
that of the bridegroom. The satisfaction of Marie de Medicis, although
sufficiently evident, was calm and dignified; but the King embraced the
bride on three several occasions; and no one could have imagined from
his deportment that he had for a single instant opposed a marriage which
now appeared to have fulfilled his most sanguine wishes.[99]

The reign of blood had nevertheless commenced. The head of Chalais fell
on the 19th of August; and on the 2nd of September the Marechal d'Ornano
expired in his prison; a fate which was shared on the 28th of February
1629 by the Grand Prieur de Vendome, both of these deaths being
attributed to poison. Be the fact as it may, thus much is at least,
certain, that the Cardinal, not daring to drag two legitimated Princes
of the Blood to the scaffold, had gradually rendered their captivity
more and more rigorous, as if to prove to the nation over which he had
stretched his iron arm that no rank, however elevated, and no name,
however ancient, could protect its possessor.

Having accomplished the marriage of the Duc d'Orleans, Richelieu and the
Queen-mother next laboured to widen the breach between Louis XIII and
his wife; for which purpose they represented that she had taken an
active part in the lately detected conspiracy, and was secretly
intriguing with Spain against the interests of her royal husband; an
attempt in which she had been aided and abetted by her confidential
friends.

The first consequence of this accusation was the arrest of Madame de
Chevreuse, who, after having undergone a formal examination, was exiled
from the Court; and this order had no sooner been obeyed than Anne of
Austria was summoned to the presence of the King, whom she found seated
between the Queen-mother and the Cardinal, and there solemnly accused,
on the pretended revelations of Chalais while under torture, of having
intrigued to procure the death of her husband, and her own marriage with
his brother. To this accusation the Spanish Princess disdainfully
replied that "she should have gained so little by the exchange, that the
absurdity of the charge must suffice for its refutation;" but her
haughty and indignant retort produced no effect upon her judges. She was
commanded thenceforward to reside exclusively at the palaces of the
Louvre and St. Germain; without the privilege of receiving a single
guest, not even excepting the ambassador of the King her brother, or the
Spanish attendants who had accompanied her to France, and, moreover,
forbidden all correspondence beyond the limits of the kingdom; while, at
the same time, as if to complete her humiliation, she was strictly
prohibited from receiving any male visitor in her apartments during the
absence of the King.[100]

Although, as we have stated, Richelieu was present at this degrading
scene, he nevertheless professed to be perfectly independent of what he
thought proper to designate as mere family dissensions, entirely beyond
the functions of a minister; and thus the whole odium of the proceedings
fell upon Louis XIII and the Queen-mother, while the Cardinal himself
remained ostensibly absorbed in public business. Neither the great
nobles nor the people were, however, deceived by this assumed
disinterestedness; but all felt alike convinced that the total
alienation which supervened between the royal couple was simply a part
of the system by which Richelieu sought one day exclusively to govern
France. Henriette Marie had left Paris after her betrothal,
accompanied by a numerous retinue of French attendants of both sexes,
and by several of the priests of the Oratory, attired in their black
gowns; and on her arrival at Whitehall she had been permitted to have
the services of her religion performed in one of the apartments of that
palace; but this concession did not, unhappily, serve to satisfy the
exactions of the girl-Queen, who, even during the first days of her
residence in England, suffered herself to betray all her antipathy to
the heretical country which was hereafter to be her home. At the public
ceremonial of her marriage, when the venerable Abbey of Westminster was
crowded with princes, bishops, and barons, she refused to receive her
crown from the hands of a Protestant prelate, or to bend her knee before
the Lord Primate; while at the same time, relying on her youth and the
effect which her extreme beauty had produced upon her royal consort, she
endeavoured to obtain an ascendency over him that excited the jealousy
and distrust of the English Court; a feeling which was not lessened by
the fact that she succeeded in extorting from the King his sanction to
erect a chapel for the more solemn observance of the rites and
ceremonies of her faith. Acting under the influence of Richelieu, who at
frequent intervals despatched missionaries to London upon futile
errands, with instructions that she should retain them about her person,
she moreover soon taught herself to believe that she had a great
mission to accomplish; and under this impression she carried her
imprudence so far as to authorize a public procession through the
streets of London, in which she herself appeared mounted upon a mule,
surrounded and followed by all her household, and a crowd of Roman
Catholic ecclesiastics.

So wanton a disregard for the feelings of her new subjects excited the
indignation of the Parliament, and made them distrustful of the Duke of
Buckingham, through whose agency and influence the alliance with France
had been formed; while it laid the foundation of those accusations
against him which were so warmly refuted by the sovereign. The
Parliament was dissolved, and the necessity of raising subsidies engaged
the minister in measures which became hostile to the French interests.
An anti-Catholic reaction was declaring itself; and Buckingham at once
felt that he could not more effectually satisfy both the Parliament and
the people than by suppressing without delay that spirit of religious
defiance which was arising in the very palace of the King.

With this conviction he accordingly declared to the young Queen, a few
days after the public pilgrimage which she had made, that she must
immediately send back to France, not only the members of her household,
but also all the ecclesiastics who had induced her so ostentatiously to
insult the faith of the nation by which she had been received and
welcomed with a warmth that merited more consideration on her part.
Indignant at so peremptory an order, Henriette exhibited an amount of
violence which in a mere girl failed to produce the effect that she had
anticipated. The Duke continued calm and resolute, while she, on her
side, vehemently refused to comply with his directions; and after having
reproached the sovereign in the most bitter terms for what she
designated both as a breach of faith and as an act of tyranny, she
summoned the Bishop of Mende, the French Ambassador, to the palace, and
instructed him to apprise the King her brother of the insult with which
she was threatened.

The prelate approved her resistance: and loudly declared that neither
the individuals composing her household, nor the ecclesiastics who were
attached to it, should leave England without an order to that effect
from their own sovereign; and he forthwith despatched couriers to Paris,
to inform the Court of the position of the English Queen; to which Louis
replied by insisting that the persons who had accompanied his royal
sister to her new kingdom should be permitted to remain about her; in
default of which concession he should thenceforward hold himself
aggrieved, and become the irreconcilable enemy of the British
Government.

The Duke of Buckingham nevertheless persisted in his resolution, and the
foreign attendants of Henriette were compelled to return to France, to
the excessive indignation of Marie de Medicis, who refused to see in the
extreme munificence of Charles towards the exiled household any
extenuation of the affront which had been put upon her favourite
daughter; while Henriette on her part, far from endeavouring to adapt
herself to circumstances, and to yield with dignified submission to a
privation which it was no longer in her power to avert, gave way to all
the petulance of a spoiled girl, and overwhelmed the minister with
reproaches and even threats. So unmeasured, indeed, were her invectives
that at length, when she had on one occasion exhausted alike the temper
and the endurance of Buckingham, he so far forgot the respect due to her
rank and to her sex, as well as his own chivalry as a noble, as to
retort with an impetuosity little inferior to her own that she had
better not proceed too far, "for that in England queens had sometimes
lost their heads;" a display of insolence which Henriette never forgot
nor forgave, and which was immediately communicated to the French Court.

Time, far from lessening the animosity of the young Queen towards the
favourite, or the consequent schism between herself and the King,
appeared rather to increase both; and Richelieu, after having for a
while contemplated a war with England conjointly with Philip of Spain,
ultimately abandoned the idea as dangerous and doubtful to the interests
of France. M. de Blainville and the Marquis d'Effiat were despatched to
the Court of London with orders to attempt a compromise; but both
signally failed; and Louis had no sooner returned to Paris than the
Cardinal, who was aware that Buckingham was as anxious to commence
hostilities as he was himself desirous to maintain peace, induced the
King to despatch Bassompierre as ambassador-extraordinary to the Court
of Whitehall with stringent instructions to effect, if possible, a good
understanding between the two countries.

On his arrival in England, however, Bassompierre discovered to his great
consternation that the coldness existing between the English monarch and
his Queen was even more serious than had been apprehended at his own
Court; and he was met on the very threshold of his task by a declaration
from the Duke of Buckingham that Charles would only consent to give him
a public audience on condition that he should not touch upon the subject
which had brought him to England; as he felt that it was one which must
necessarily make him lose his temper, which would be undignified in the
presence of his Court and with the Queen at his side; who, angered by
the dismissal of her French retinue, would not, as he felt convinced,
fail in her turn to be guilty of some extravagance, but would probably
shed tears before everybody; and that consequently, without this pledge
on the part of the French envoy, he would accord him merely a private
interview. Bassompierre hesitated for a time before he could bring
himself to consent to such a compromise of his own dignity and that of
his royal master; but, aware of the importance attached by Richelieu to
the result of his mission, he at length declared that after having
delivered the letters with which he was entrusted, he would leave it to
his Majesty to determine the length of the audience, which might be
easily abridged by a declaration that the subjects upon which they had
to treat would require more time than his Majesty could then command,
and that he would consequently appoint an earlier hour for seeing him
in private.

This delicate affair having been thus satisfactorily arranged, the
public audience took place at Hampton Court. Bassompierre was introduced
into the royal presence by the Duke of Buckingham and the Earl of
Carlisle, and on entering he found the King and Queen seated upon a
raised dais, surrounded by a brilliant Court, but both sovereigns rose
as he bent before them. Having presented his letters, together with the
royal message, Charles, as had been previously arranged, pleaded want of
leisure to enter upon public business; upon which the envoy proceeded to
pay his respects to the Queen, who briefly replied that his Majesty
having given her his permission to return to the capital, she should be
able when there to discourse with him at greater length. Bassompierre
then withdrew, and was escorted by all the great nobles to his carriage.

This commencement, as will be at once apparent, was sufficiently
unpromising, but the French envoy was in a position of such
responsibility that he dared not suffer himself to be discouraged; nor
had he been long in England ere he became painfully convinced that the
petulance and want of self-control in which Henriette wilfully indulged,
daily tended to widen a schism that was already too threatening.
Nevertheless, Bassompierre remained firmly at his post. Matrimonial
feuds in high places were no novelty to the brilliant courtier of Henri
IV and the confidant of Marie de Medicis; and he at once felt that he
must enact at St. James's the same role as Sully had formerly
represented at Fontainebleau and the Louvre; nor did his experience of
the past fail, moreover, to convince him of the policy of endeavouring
in the first instance to effect a reconciliation between the Queen and
the favourite. This was, however, no easy task; but at length the
zealous Marquis succeeded in the attempt, as he informs us in his usual
naive style.

"On Sunday the 25th," he says, "I went to fetch the Duke and took him
with me to the Queen, where he made his peace with her, which I had
accomplished after a thousand difficulties. The King afterwards came in,
who also made it up with her and caressed her a great deal, thanking me
for having restored a good understanding between the Duke and his wife;
and then he took me to his chamber, where he showed me his jewels, which
are very fine."

On the morrow, however, when Bassompierre went to pay his respects to
Henriette at Somerset House, he discovered that he had personally lost
considerably in her favour, as she vehemently complained that he
sacrificed her dignity as a Princess of France to expediency; and had
espoused the cause of her adversary instead of upholding her own. To
these reproaches the French envoy replied by explaining the difficulty
of his position, and the earnest desire of his sovereign to maintain
peace; but this reasoning did not avail to satisfy the wounded vanity of
the girl-Queen; who finally, by her violence, compelled Bassompierre to
remind her that her headstrong egotism was endangering the interests of
her royal brother. Incensed at this accusation, Henriette at once wept
and recriminated; and finally the French courtier retired from her
presence, and hastened to forward a courier to Paris to solicit the
interference of the King and his minister, and to request further
instructions for his guidance.

A few days subsequently, after he had received urgent letters from the
King, by which he was commanded to avoid in every emergency a rupture
between the two countries, Bassompierre again waited upon the Queen, and
explained to her the stringent orders of her royal brother; but
Henriette persisted in declaring that her actual position was not
appreciated at the French Court; and while she was maintaining this
argument, despite all the asseverations of the bewildered envoy, the
arrival of the King was announced. Charles had no sooner entered the
apartment than a violent quarrel arose, which threatened such serious
consequences that Bassompierre interposed, assuring the imprudent
Princess that should she not control her temper, and acknowledge her
error, he would on the following day take leave of his Britannic
Majesty, and on his return to Paris explain to the sovereign and the
Queen-mother that he had been compelled to abandon his mission entirely
through her obstinate and uncompromising violence.

As this threat produced an evident effect upon Henriette, the King had
no sooner retired than the Marechal, with admirable tact and temper,
represented to the young Queen that at the age of sixteen she was
incompetent to appreciate the measures of her royal consort; while by
her intemperate language and strong prejudices she was seriously
injuring her own cause. Henriette, during her paroxysms of petulance,
was deaf to all his remonstrances; but on this occasion she listened
with greater patience, and even admitted that she had gone too far; a
concession which once more restored the hopes of Bassompierre.

Meanwhile he continued to receive constant letters of encouragement,
both from Louis XIII and Richelieu, urging him to persevere until he
should have succeeded in effecting a perfect reconciliation not only
between the King and Queen, but also between the Queen and the Duke of
Buckingham; and assuring him of their perfect satisfaction with the
measures which he had already adopted. Marie de Medicis was, however,
less placable; and much as she deprecated the idea of hostilities with
England, she nevertheless openly applauded the resistance of her
daughter to what she designated as the tyrannical presumption of
Buckingham, and the blind weakness of Charles, who sacrificed the
domestic happiness of a young and lovely bride to the arrogant intrigues
of an overbearing favourite. The English Duke himself was peculiarly
obnoxious to the Queen-mother, who could not forgive his insolent
admiration of Anne of Austria, and the ostentatious manner in which he
had made the wife of her son a subject of Court scandal; while, at the
same time, she deeply resented the fact that Henriette had not even been
permitted to retain her confessor, but was compelled to accept one
chosen for her by the minister.

While, therefore, Bassompierre constantly received directions from both
the King and the Cardinal to ensure peace at any price, and to prevail
upon the young Queen to make the concessions necessary for producing
this result, Marie de Medicis as continually wrote to entreat of the
Marechal to uphold the interests of the French Princess, and to assure
her of her perfect satisfaction at the spirit which she had evinced;
though it is doubtful if, when these messages were entrusted to the
royal envoy, they were ever communicated to the excitable Henriette.

Finally, to his great satisfaction, Bassompierre succeeded in carrying
out the wishes of his sovereign; and he at length took his leave of the
English Court, laden with rich presents, after having received the warm
acknowledgments of all parties for the patience and impartiality with
which he had acted throughout; and the gratification of feeling that a
better, and as he hoped a lasting, understanding existed between the
royal pair. The household of Henriette had been re-organized, and
although upon a more reduced scale than that by which she had been
accompanied from France, it was still sufficiently numerous to satisfy
even the exigencies of royalty; and thus, estimated by its consequences,
this embassy was probably the most brilliant event of Bassompierre's
whole career; as from the period of his residence at the Court of
England, the young Queen possessed both the heart and the confidence of
her royal husband, whose affection for his beautiful and accomplished
consort thenceforward endured to the last day of his existence.[101]

In the month of November France lost another of her marshals in the
person of M. de Lesdiguieres, who had passed his eightieth year; while
the subsequently celebrated court _roue_, the Duc de Saint-Simon, became
the accredited favourite of the changeful and capricious Louis, without,
however, attaining any influence in the government, which had at this
period become entirely concentrated in the hands of Richelieu and the
Queen-mother.

The pregnancy of the Duchesse d'Orleans, which was formally announced at
the close of this year, was a source of great exultation to her
husband, who received with undisguised delight the congratulations which
were poured out upon him from every side; nor did he seek to disguise
his conviction that, should the Queen continue childless, there was
nothing to which he might see fit to aspire, which, with the assistance
of the Guises and their faction, he would find it impossible to attain.
A general hatred of Richelieu was the ruling sentiment of the great
nobles, who were anxious to effect his overthrow, but the Cardinal was
too prudent to be taken at a disadvantage; and he at once felt that in
addition to the blow which he had aimed at the power of the barons by
depriving them of their fortified places, he still possessed the means
of maintaining his position, and even of increasing his authority, by
labouring to accomplish the destruction of the Protestants; a policy
which was eagerly adopted by Louis, whose morbid superstition, coupled
with his love of war for its own sake, led him to believe that the work
of slaughter which must necessarily supervene could not but prove
agreeable to Heaven; counselled as it was, moreover, by a dignitary of
the Church.

While Richelieu was thus seeking to involve the nation in a renewal of
that intestine warfare by which it had already been so fearfully
visited, simply to further his own ambitious views, the princes and
nobles whom he had irritated into a thirst for vengeance were no less
eager to attain the same object in order to effect his ruin; and for
this purpose they endeavoured to secure the co-operation of Gaston,
deluding themselves with the belief that the heir-apparent to the
throne, who had encouraged their disaffection, and for the maintenance
of whose interests Ornano and Chalais had already suffered, would not
refuse to them at so critical a moment the support of his name, his
wealth, and his influence. But these sanguine malcontents had not yet
learned to appreciate the egotistical and ungrateful nature of the young
Prince, who kept no mental record of services conferred, and retained no
feeling of compunction for sufferings endured in his cause; but who ever
sought to avail himself of both, while he continued utterly unable to
appreciate either.

The appeal was consequently made in vain. Enriched by the careful policy
of the Cardinal, Gaston sought only to profit by his suddenly-attained
wealth; and despite the entreaties of his wife, whose youth, beauty, and
accomplishments might well, for a time at least, have commanded his
respect, he plunged into the most puerile and degrading pleasures, and
abandoned himself to a life of alternate indolence and dissipation. The
immense fortune of the Duchess, which had moreover been greatly
increased by the accumulated interest of a long minority, was wasted in
the most shameful orgies, amid dissolute and unseemly associates; and
even while he was awaiting with undisguised anxiety the birth of a son
who, as he fondly trusted, would one day fill the throne of France, no
sentiment of forbearance towards the expectant mother could induce him
to sacrifice his own selfish passions.[102]

On the 29th of May the desired event took place, but to the extreme
mortification of the Duc d'Orleans it was announced that the Duchess had
given birth to a daughter--the Princess who subsequently became famous
during the reign of Louis XIV under the title of La Grande Mademoiselle.
Nor was this the greatest trial which Gaston was destined to endure, as
four days subsequently the unfortunate Duchess breathed her last, to the
regret of the whole Court, to whom she had become endeared by her
gentleness and urbanity; and to the deep grief of the Queen-mother, who
saw in this deplorable event the overthrow of her most cherished
prospects. Louis XIII was, however, far from participating in the
general feeling of sorrow, nor did he seek to conceal his exultation.

"You weep, Madame," he said coldly to Marie de Medicis, whom he found
absorbed in grief; "leave tears to your son, who will soon be enabled to
drown them in dissipation. You will do well also not to expose him for
some time to come to the chance of a second disappointment of the same
nature; he is scarcely fitted for a married life, and has signally
failed in his first attempt at domestic happiness." The Queen-mother
offered no reply to this injunction; but while the King and Richelieu
were absorbed by the invasion of Buckingham, and the persecution of the
Protestants, she commenced a negotiation with the Grand Duke of Florence
which had for its object an alliance between the widowed Gaston and one
of the daughters of that Prince.

Buckingham had been repulsed by the French troops before the Island of
Rhe, but had ultimately effected a landing; and on the 28th of June the
King left Paris in order to join the army at La Rochelle, and to prevent
a junction between the English general and the reformed party. He had
already been threatened by symptoms of fever, but his anxiety to oppose
the enemy was so great that he disregarded the representations and
entreaties of those about him, and proceeded to Beaulieu, where he
slept. Shortly after his arrival in that town his malady increased, but
he still refused to follow the advice of his physicians, and on the
morrow advanced as far as Villeroy, where, however, he was compelled to
remain, being utterly incapable of further exertion.

This intelligence no sooner reached the Queen-mother than she hastened
to rejoin the royal invalid; an example which was followed a few days
subsequently by Anne of Austria, the Keeper of the Seals, and the whole
Court. The indisposition of the King, which for some days threatened the
most fatal results, was, however, ultimately conquered by his
physicians; and on the 15th of August the royal patient was declared
convalescent.[103]

During the illness of the sovereign the entire control of public affairs
had, by his command, been formally confided to Marie de Medicis and the
Cardinal; and he was no sooner in a state to resume his journey than he
hastened to La Rochelle, which was blockaded by his forces under the
orders of Monsieur; while the troops destined to succour the Island of
Rhe were placed under the command of the Marechal de Schomberg, and
Louis de Marillac,[104] the brother of Michel de Marillac, the Keeper of
the Seals (who, through the influence of Richelieu, had succeeded M.
d'Aligre in that dignity), by whom Buckingham was compelled, after a
siege of three months, to evacuate the island, and to retreat in
confusion, and not without severe loss, to the vessels which
awaited him.

This victory created immense exultation in France; the Duc de
Saint-Simon was instructed to convey the colours and cannon taken from
the English with great pomp to the capital, and public rejoicings
testified the delight with which the citizens of Paris received the
welcome trophies. One individual alone took no share in the general
triumph, and that one was the Duc d'Orleans, who had been deprived of
his command by the King, in order that it might be conferred upon the
Cardinal de Richelieu, and who had so deeply resented the indignity that
he instantly retired from the army and returned to Paris, leaving Louis
and his minister to continue the siege[105].

The vigorous defence of the Rochelais, however, and the extreme severity
of the winter, did not fail to produce their effect upon the King, who
became weary of a campaign which exacted more mental energy than
physical courage, and who was anxious to return to the capital. He
declared his constitution to be undermined, and asserted that he should
die if he remained in the camp; but as he feared that his reputation
might suffer should he appear to abandon the army at his own
instigation, he was desirous that Richelieu should suggest his
departure, and thus afford him an opportunity of seeming resistance;
while the minister, who was unsuspicious of the truth, did not hesitate
to assure him that his absence at so important a juncture might prove
fatal to his interests, and could not fail to tarnish his fame as a
general. Incensed by this opposition to his secret wishes, Louis
retorted so bitterly that the Cardinal at once perceived his error, and
hastened to repair it; nor did he do this an hour too soon, as the
exasperation of the King was so great that he even talked of dispensing
with his services; but the able policy of Richelieu once more saved him,
and he so skilfully convinced the King only a few hours subsequently
that his presence was necessary in the capital in order to counteract
the intrigues of the Queen-mother and the Duc d'Orleans, that the
ruffled pride of the weak monarch was soothed, while a plausible pretext
for his departure was supplied of which he hastened to avail himself;
and having taken leave of the troops, he at length set forth for Paris
on the 10th of February.

Louis was rendered, moreover, the more earnest to regain the capital by
the constant information which he received of the gaieties in which the
two Queens and Monsieur were constantly indulging while he was devoured
by melancholy under the walls of the beleaguered city; nor had he been
indifferent to a rumour which had reached him of the marked inclination
evinced by the Prince his brother for the beautiful and accomplished
Marie de Gonzaga, the daughter of the Duc de Nevers, who shortly
afterwards became Duke of Mantua.[106]

Coupled with his disinclination to see Gaston again placed in a position
to give an heir to the French throne, Louis had sufficiently profited by
the lessons of Richelieu to feel the whole extent of the danger by which
he would be threatened should Gaston succeed in acquiring allies beyond
the frontiers; and he accordingly hastened to express to the
Queen-mother his displeasure at the intelligence of this new passion,
with a coldness which immediately tended to convince her that a great
change had taken place in his feelings towards herself. Alarmed by this
conviction, and anxious to discover the cause of so marked a falling-off
in his confidence, Marie de Medicis exerted all her energies to
ascertain through whose agency her influence had thus been undermined;
nor was it long ere she became assured that Richelieu had availed
himself of her absence to renew all the old misgivings of the King, and
by rendering her motives and affection questionable, to make himself
entirely master of the mind of the jealous and suspicious monarch.

Once satisfied of this fact, the Queen-mother resolved to profit in her
turn by the absence of the Cardinal, whose ingratitude was so flagrant
as thenceforward to sever every link between them; and the opportunity
afforded by the open demonstrations of affection which Gaston lavished
upon the Mantuan Princess was consequently eagerly seized upon in order
to counteract the evil offices of the minister. Marie had watched the
growing passion of the Duc d'Orleans with an annoyance as great as that
of the King himself, for she had never forgotten the animosity displayed
towards her by the Duc de Nevers; and she was, moreover, anxious, as we
have already stated, to effect an alliance between her second son and a
Princess of Tuscany; but aware of the capricious and unstable character
of Gaston, she had hitherto confined herself to expostulations, which
had produced little effect. Now, however, she resolved to derive the
desired benefit from a circumstance which she had previously deprecated,
and, summoning Monsieur, she readily persuaded him to affect the most
violent indignation at her opposition, while she, on her side, would
evince an equal degree of displeasure against himself. To this
arrangement Gaston readily consented, as he delighted in intrigue, and
was aware that by pursuing Marie de Gonzaga with his addresses he should
alarm Richelieu as well as annoy the King. An open rupture accordingly
appeared to take place between the mother and son; and while the Duke
continued to visit the young Princess, and to enact the impassioned
lover, Marie de Medicis expressed her indignation in the most unmeasured
terms, and threatened him with her unrelenting anger should he persist
in his suit. So well indeed did she perform her self-imposed part, that
not only Louis himself, but the whole Court were thoroughly deceived by
the stratagem; and meanwhile the unsuspecting Princess became the victim
of the dissembling Queen and her capricious and heartless suitor.[107]

As the Cardinal had laboured to impress upon the King that Marie de
Medicis was anxious to effect the second marriage of her younger son in
order to secure the succession to his children, Louis had arrived in the
capital fully possessed by this idea; and his surprise was consequently
great when he perceived that the Queen-mother resented the projected
alliance as an insult to her own dignity; nor did he hesitate to express
his satisfaction at the misunderstanding which it had caused between
them. His moody brow relaxed; his suspicions were for awhile laid at
rest; and after having devoted some time to the pleasures of the chase,
he once more left the capital and returned to La Rochelle.

On the 16th of October the city, exhausted by famine, and decimated by
the artillery of the royal army, was compelled to capitulate; and on the
30th of the same month it was garrisoned by its conquerors. So soon as a
fitting residence could be prepared for him, Richelieu took up his abode
within its walls; and on the 1st of November the King made a triumphal
entry into the late stronghold of Protestantism in France, whose
subjugation had cost the lives of upwards of forty thousand of his
subjects.[108]

La Rochelle was no sooner in possession of the royal forces than the
Cardinal determined to protect Mantua against the aggression of Austria,
a measure which he proposed in the Council, where it met with
considerable opposition. Richelieu, however, persisted in his purpose,
alleging that he had pledged himself to the Italian states to come to
their support immediately that the campaign against the reformed party
should have been successfully concluded; and he even urged the King to
head the army in person. Louis, who was naturally brave, and who,
moreover, prided himself upon his prowess in the field, and loved to
contrast it with the pusillanimity of Philip IV of Spain, whose person
was scarcely known to his troops, listened eagerly to the suggestion;
but it was peculiarly obnoxious to Marie de Medicis, who did not fail to
declare that the sole object of the Cardinal was to separate her from
the King, and thus to weaken her influence. She consequently opposed the
project with all the energy of her naturally impetuous character,
asserting that her tenderness as a mother would not permit of her
consenting thus constantly to see her son exposed to the vicissitudes of
war, or his feeble health overtaxed by exertions and fatigues to which
he was unequal.

The Cardinal listened to her representations with an impassibility as
respectful as it was unbending. He had no faith in the reasons which she
advanced, although he verbally accepted them, for the time had not yet
arrived when he could openly brave her power; but it was at this period
that the moral struggle commenced between them of which the unfortunate
Queen was destined to become the victim.[109]

The exultation of Louis XIII at the fall of La Rochelle was considerably
lessened by a violent attack of gout which immediately succeeded, and by
which he was detained a prisoner within its gates until the 19th of
November, when he departed for Limours, where he was met by the two
Queens and Monsieur. Thence the Court proceeded to St. Germain in order
to enjoy the diversion of hunting, and subsequently to Versailles, to
await the completion of the ceremonial of the solemn and triumphal entry
of the King into his capital, which took place on the 23rd of December
with great pomp and magnificence. All the approaches to the city were
crowded by dense masses of the population of the adjacent country, while
the streets were thronged with the citizens who rent the air with
acclamations. Triumphal arches were erected at intervals along the road
by which the royal procession was to travel; the balconies of the houses
were draped with silks and tapestry; and nearly eight thousand men,
splendidly armed and clothed, awaited the King a league beyond the gates
in order to escort him to his capital. The Parliament, and all the
municipal bodies, harangued him as he reached the walls, and exhausted
themselves in the most fulsome and servile flatteries; and finally, he
received the congratulations of all the foreign ambassadors, as well as
the compliments of the Papal Nuncio, by whom he was exhorted in the name
of the Pope to persist in the great work which he had so gloriously
commenced, until he had accomplished the entire extermination of the
Protestants of France.[110]

FOOTNOTES:

[90] Lingard, vol. ix. p. 326.

[91] Mezeray, vol. xi. pp. 283, 286.

[92] Motteville, _Mem_. vol. i. p. 342 _note_.

[93] _Mercure Francais_, 1625. Siri, _Mem. Rec_. vol. v, pp. 849, 850.

[94] Brienne, _Mem_. vol. i. p. 422.

[95] Sismondi, vol. xxiii. pp. 14, 15. Capefigue (Richelieu, Mazarin,
etc.), vol. iv. p. 8.

[96] Henri de Talleyrand, Prince de Chalais, was a younger son of the
illustrious house of Talleyrand, whose personal attractions had secured
to him the favour of Louis XIII, by whom he was appointed Grand Master
of the Wardrobe.

[97] Mezeray, vol. xi. pp. 317-319.

[98] Sismondi, vol. xxiii. pp. 21, 22. Bassompierre, _Mem_. vol. iii. p.
56. Brienne, _Mem_. vol. i. p. 432. Gaston, Duc d'Orleans, _Mem_. vol.
i. p. 56. Le Vassor, vol. v. pp. 471-500.

[99] Capefigue, vol. iv. p. 34.

[100] Sismondi, vol. xxiii. p. 22. Capefigue, vol. iv. p. 35.
Bassompierre, _Mem_. vol. iii. p. 57.

[101] Capefigue, vol. i. pp. 324-327. Bassompierre, _Mem_. vol. iii. pp.
60-76.

[102] Mezeray, vol. xi. p. 334.

[103] _Mercure Francais_, 1627.

[104] Louis de Marillac was Gentleman in ordinary of the Bedchamber to
Henri IV, and greatly distinguished himself by his valour alike under
that sovereign and his successor Louis XIII. He was created Marshal of
France in 1629; and was arrested in the camp of Felizzo, in Piedmont, in
1632, for having, as was asserted, volunteered to assassinate Richelieu
with his own hand, when he voted against him in the assembly known as
the "Day of Dupes." On the 8th of May in the same year he was condemned
to lose his head; a sentence which was carried into execution in the
Place de Greve; but his character was subsequently vindicated by a
decree of the Parliament after the death of the Cardinal.

[105] Mezeray, vol. xi. pp. 338, 339.

[106] Charles, Duc de Nevers, succeeded Vincent II, Duke of Mantua, who,
dying without issue on the 24th of December 1628, solemnly appointed
him his heir.

[107] Le Vassor, vol. v. p. 736. Mezeray, vol. xi. p. 339. Gaston
d'Orleans, _Mem_. edit. Petitot, vol. xxxi. p. 86. Sismondi, vol. xxiii.
pp. 60, 61.

[108] Mezeray, vol. xi. pp. 355-357.

[109] Sismondi, vol. xxiii. p. 94.

[110] Le Vassor, vol. v. pp. 907, 908.

CHAPTER VI

1629

Richelieu resolves to undermine the power of Austria--State of
Europe--Opposition of the Queen-mother to a new war--Perseverance of the
Cardinal--Anne of Austria joins the faction of Marie de Medicis--Gaston
is appointed General of the royal army--Richelieu retires from the
Court--Alarm of Louis XIII--A King and his minister--Louis leaves Paris
for the seat of war--Monsieur is deprived of his command, and
retires to Dauphiny--Marie de Gonzaga is sent to the fortress of
Vincennes--Monsieur consents to forego his marriage until it shall
receive the royal sanction, and the Princess returns to the
Louvre--Marie is invested with a partial regency--Forebodings of the
Cardinal--Termination of the campaign--Renewed discord--Richelieu
becomes jealous of Bassompierre--Louis abandons his army, and is
followed by the minister--Counterplots--An offended mistress and an
ex-favourite--A hollow peace--Gaston retires to the Court of Lorraine,
where he becomes enamoured of the Princesse Marguerite--The Cardinal
invites him to return to Paris--Monsieur accepts the proposed
conditions--The French troops march upon Piedmont--Richelieu is
appointed Lieutenant-General of the royal forces in Italy--The King
resolves to follow him--Anxiety of Marie de Medicis to avoid a rupture
with Spain--Dissensions between the two Queens---Mademoiselle de
Hautefort--Failing influence of Marie de Medicis--Self-distrust of the
King--The Queen-mother endeavours to effect a reconciliation between
her sons.

La Rochelle had no sooner surrendered than, as already stated, Richelieu
determined to make an attempt to undermine the power of Austria, greatly
to the dissatisfaction of the Cardinal de Berulle, Marillac the Keeper
of the Seals, and all the other members of the secret council of Marie
de Medicis. The position of Philip was at that moment a formidable one;
Germany, which was almost entirely subjugated, was prepared to supply
him with an immense number of troops, while the treasures which had
poured in upon him from the New World made him equally independent as
regarded the outlay required to support his armies. Moreover, religious
prejudices strengthened their antagonism to the meditated war. The
Emperor was anxious to exterminate the Protestants, and the Council
consequently looked upon all opposition to that potentate as a crime
against their own faith. M. de Berulle was eloquent and enthusiastic;
Marillac aspired to build up his fortunes on the ruins of those of
Richelieu, and to succeed him in his office as prime minister; and Marie
de Medicis clung with tenacious anxiety both to the Emperor of Germany
and the King of Spain, who had alike approved of her determination to
effect the overthrow of the man whom she had herself raised to power,
and by whom she had been so ungratefully betrayed. Marie and her
counsellors were, however, by no means a match for the astute and
far-reaching Richelieu, who had, by encouraging the belligerent tastes
of the King, and still more by so complicating the affairs of the
kingdom as to render them beyond the comprehension and grasp of the weak
monarch, and to reduce him to utter helplessness, succeeded in making
himself altogether independent of his benefactress, none of whose
counsellors were capable of competing for an hour with his superior
energy and talent. Aware of his advantage, Richelieu consequently
despised the opposition by which he was harassed and impeded in his
projects; and while he affected to pay the greatest deference to the
representations of the Queen-mother, he persisted in his enterprises
with an imperturbability which ensured their success.

One circumstance, however, tended greatly to embarrass the
Cardinal-minister. Anne of Austria, indignant at the protracted neglect
of the King, and the utter insignificance to which she was consequently
condemned, openly espoused the party of the Queen-mother, and, in her
turn, loudly complained that the King should be induced by the egotism
of the Cardinal to expose his health to the chances of warfare and the
dangers of unwholesome climates; declaring that Richelieu, not satisfied
with retaining his royal master for several months amid the marshes of
Aunis, was now seeking to destroy him by exposure to the snows and
storms of the Alps during the depth of winter.

Irritated by these open accusations, and still more alarmed lest the
egotism of the monarch should lead him to adopt the same opinion, the
Cardinal urged the necessity of placing at the head of so considerable
an army as that which was about to march into Italy, a general whose
name alone must suffice to awe the enemy against whom it was directed;
but even this subterfuge, welcome as it was to the vanity of Louis, did
not produce the effect which he had hoped; for the Queen-mother,
profiting by a private interview with the King, earnestly represented
that a more favourable opportunity than the present could never again
present itself to effect a separation between Monsieur and Marie
de Gonzaga.

"You know, Sire," she said in conclusion, "how tenaciously I have
striven to prevent a marriage so obnoxious alike to your Majesty and to
myself, and how signally I have hitherto failed. Now, however, Gaston
may be induced to forego his intention, for he has assured me that
should you consent to confer upon him the command of the expedition to
Italy, he will resign all claim to the hand of Marie de Gonzaga, and
even permit her to return to Mantua. It remains, therefore, with
yourself to terminate an affair which has already created much annoyance
both to your Majesty and to the Queen, who is equally desirous that this
ill-judged and premature alliance should not be suffered to take place."

The tears and entreaties of the two Queens at length produced their
effect; and with some reluctance Louis consented that his brother
should be appointed to the command of the army, desiring at the same
time that he should receive fifty thousand crowns to defray the expenses
of his equipment; and, although the spendthrift Prince lost the whole
sum at the gaming-table during the course of a single evening, Richelieu
did not venture upon further expostulation, the union of the two Queens,
and the undisguised satisfaction of the great nobles, rendering a more
sustained opposition alike doubtful and dangerous. Affecting, therefore,
to withdraw from the struggle, he retired to Chaillot, while he left to
his friends the task of reawakening the jealousy which Louis had long
evinced of the military talents of his brother.[111] This project could
not, as Richelieu was well aware, fail to prove successful; and,
accordingly, the King ere long manifested great uneasiness and
irritation; refused to join in the amusements which Marie de Medicis was
careful to provide for him; lost his rest; and, finally, set forth for
Chaillot in order to have an interview with the minister.

When the Cardinal saw the moody King arrive, he at once felt that he had
triumphed; the brow of Louis was as black as night, and he clutched the
hilt of his sword with so tight a grasp that his fingers became
bloodless.

"You are ill, Sire; you are suffering," said the wily churchman, with
well-acted anxiety. "Can my poor services avail to restore you to peace
of mind?" "I cannot allow my brother," was the abrupt reply, "to
command my army beyond the Alps. You must enable me to retract
my promise."

"I know only one method of doing so," said Richelieu, after appearing to
reflect, "and that is that your Majesty should repair thither in person.
But should you adopt this resolution, you must carry it into effect
within eight days; there is no time to be lost."

"Be it so," exclaimed Louis; "I will leave the capital and place myself
at the head of my troops;" and beckoning to Bassompierre, by whom he had
been accompanied, and who stood near the door of the Apartment, he
added, with something approaching to a smile: "Here is a man who will
willingly bear me company, and who will serve me zealously."

"Whither does your Majesty purpose to proceed?" inquired the Marechal,
as he bowed his acknowledgments.

"To Italy," said the King, "and that not later than a week hence, in
order to raise the siege of Casal. Make your preparations and follow me
without delay. I shall appoint you my lieutenant-general under my
brother, should he consent to share in the campaign; and I shall also
take the Marechal de Crequy with me; he knows the country; and I trust
that we shall cause ourselves to be talked of throughout Europe." [112]

Thus in a single hour were all the projects of Marie de Medicis
overthrown; and the King had no sooner, on his return to Paris, informed
her of his change of purpose than she felt that Richelieu had at length
thrown down the gauntlet, and that thenceforward there must be war
between them. Nor was the Duc d'Orleans less mortified and alarmed than
the Queen-mother; but neither the one nor the other ventured to
expostulate; and, although with less precipitation than the King,
Monsieur commenced his preparations. Louis XIII left Paris on the 4th of
January; but it was not until the 29th that his brother took leave of
the Court, and reluctantly proceeded to rejoin him. The Cardinal had
already set forth, although the extreme severity of the weather, and the
deep fall of snow by which the roads were obstructed, might have
sufficed to furnish him with a pretext for delay; but it was no part of
Richelieu's policy to suffer the two brothers to remain together beyond
his surveillance; and accordingly, as was his usual habit on such
emergencies, he threw off his indisposition, and boldly defied alike
wintry weather and fatigue.

He might, however, as the event proved, have been more deliberate in his
movements; for Monsieur, already annoyed by the disappointment to which
he had been subjected, evinced no disposition to profit by the brief
opportunity thus afforded to him, but proceeded leisurely to Dauphiny;
where he had no sooner arrived than he received information that the
most strenuous efforts had been made immediately after he had left Paris
to hasten the departure of Marie de Gonzaga. Delighted at any pretext
for abandoning the journey to which he had been compelled, he forthwith
retraced his steps; but great as was the haste which he displayed to
reach the capital, the first news by which he was greeted was that the
Queen-mother had caused the Princess of Mantua to be imprisoned in the
fortress of Vincennes.

This extraordinary intelligence was communicated to him by the Marechal
de Marillac, who had succeeded Richelieu in the confidence of Marie de
Medicis; and who endeavoured to palliate the outrage by explaining the
motives which induced her Majesty to take so singular a step. She had
been as M. de Marillac asserted, assured that his Highness had resolved
to carry off Mademoiselle de Gonzaga, and then to leave the kingdom; a
determination by which she was so much alarmed that she had adopted the
only measure which had appeared to her to offer a certain preventive to
so dangerous and unprecedented a proceeding; but Monsieur would listen
to no arguments upon the subject, and withdrew in violent displeasure to
Orleans, whence he despatched one of the officers of his household to
protest against the imprisonment of the Princess, and to demand not only
that she should immediately be set at liberty, but also that she should
not be permitted to leave the country.

The Queen-mother, who was aware that she could not justify a proceeding
which violated all the rights of hospitality, and who was, moreover,
alarmed lest she should incur the lasting animosity of her favourite
son, and thus render herself still more helpless than she had already
become through the defection of Richelieu, found herself compelled to
accede to a request which had in fact assumed the character of a
command; but she, nevertheless, only accorded her consent to the release
of the captive on condition that Monsieur should desist, for a time at
least, in pressing his marriage either with Marie de Gonzaga or any
other Princess until he had received the consent of the King to that
effect; and Gaston having, after some hesitation, agreed to the proposed
terms, the unfortunate girl was removed from Vincennes to the Louvre,
whither the Prince immediately hastened to congratulate her on her
liberation, and to express to the Queen-mother his indignation at what
had occurred.[113]

Before the departure of the King for Italy he had, at the instigation of
Richelieu, declared Marie de Medicis Regent of all the provinces on the
west bank of the Loire; a concession to which, extraordinary as it must
appear, the Cardinal had been compelled, in order to appease the
Queen-mother, whose exasperation at this renewed separation from the
King had exceeded any which she had previously exhibited; and who had
been supported in her complaints and expostulations by Anne of Austria,
with whom she had begun to make common cause. That Richelieu, however,
did so with great and anxious reluctance there can be little doubt, as
he was well aware that he had excited her suspicion and dislike, and
that he should, moreover, leave her surrounded by individuals who would
not fail to embitter her animosity against him.

Moreover, the haughty minister could not disguise from himself that he
was labouring to build up his own fortunes upon the ruin of those of his
benefactress--of the confiding and generous mistress to whom he was
indebted for all the honours which he then enjoyed--nor could he fail to
feel that reprisals on her part would be at once legitimate and
justifiable; and accordingly he caused the commission of her regency to
be prefaced by the most elaborate encomiums. Not content with asserting
that her "able government and her wise measures had proved her to be
alike the mother of the sovereign and of the state." Louis, acting under
the advice of the wily minister, lavished upon her every epithet of
honour and respect; apparently forgetting that he had previously exiled
her from the Court, taken up arms against her, and that he even then
believed her to be in secret correspondence with his enemies; while at
the same period Richelieu records in his Memoirs that the Pope had
declared to his nuncio, during his audience of leavetaking on his
departure for the French Court: "You will see the Queen-mother. She is
favourable to Spain; and her attachment to the King her son does not
extend beyond her own interests. She is, moreover, one of the most
obstinate persons in the world." [114]

And yet, even while dwelling with complacency on the Papal strictures,
the Cardinal did not hesitate to put into the mouth of the King the
most unmeasured panegyrics of the same Princess, in order to shelter
himself from her vengeance. This concession was the result of an able
calculation, for Richelieu could not remain blind to his personal
unpopularity; and was, moreover, conscious that both Marie de Medicis
and Monsieur were beloved by the populace. It was not perhaps that
either the one or the other was individually the object of popular
affection, but each represented the interests of an irritated
opposition; and both sought to undermine the existing Government, or
rather the authority of Richelieu, who was rapidly absorbing all power,
and striving to bend the necks of nobles, citizens, and people under his
iron yoke.[115]

The campaign having terminated favourably for the royal cause, and the
taking of La Rochelle, coupled with the deliverance of Casal, having
greatly increased the influence of Richelieu over the mind of the King,
the former began more openly to defy the power of the Queen-mother; and
anxious, if possible, to regain the favour of Gaston, he no longer
scrupled to declare that she had been actuated solely by her own
interests in the violent repugnance which she had evinced to the union
of the Prince with Marie de Gonzaga; and to impress upon the weak
monarch the danger of irritating his brother by further opposition to a
union which would meet with the approval of the whole kingdom. Louis,
however, as we have already shown, was himself averse to the marriage of
Monsieur, who had refused to see him until he consented to his wishes;
but, angered by this apparent defiance, he nevertheless bitterly
reproached his mother for her harshness towards both parties, and
refused to listen to her proffered justification.

Marie de Medicis at once perceived whence the factitious strength of her
son was derived; and all her previous affection for the Cardinal became
changed into a hatred which was destined to continue undiminished to the
close of her existence.

Nor was Richelieu, on his side, less ill at ease. He was aware that his
ingratitude to his benefactress was the theme of general remark and
reproach; and he apprehended, should the King fall a victim to one of
those attacks of indisposition to which he was continually subject--an
event which had been foretold by the astrologers, and which was
anticipated by his physicians--that he should be unable to contend
against the animosity of the irritated Princess, and the undisguised
aversion of the Duc d'Orleans, who made no effort to conceal his dislike
to the haughty minister, against whom he published during his sojourn at
Nancy a manifesto, in which he accused him of having usurped the
authority of the sovereign.

Louis, however, who felt his own utter inability to dispense with so
able and fearless a counsellor, paid no regard to the discontent of the
Prince; and increased his indignation by issuing letters patent, in
which, after eulogizing the Cardinal, and expressing his sense of the
services which he had rendered alike to himself and to his kingdom, he
officially appointed him Prime Minister. It is true that from his first
admission to the Council Richelieu had performed all the functions
appertaining to that rank, but he had nevertheless hitherto been
preceded by the other ministers, whereas this public declaration enabled
him to take his place immediately below the Princes of the Blood;[116]
while, in addition to this new dignity, he found himself _de facto_
generalissimo of the King's armies in Piedmont.

Bassompierre had meanwhile greatly distinguished himself at the Pass of
Susa, which had been forced by the French troops; and his vigour,
activity, and courage had rendered him the idol of the soldiers, who
justly attributed to his able exertions no small portion of the success
which had attended the royal arms. The military renown of the brilliant
courtier, whom he had hitherto affected to regard merely as a spoilt
child of fortune, was, however, highly distasteful to the Cardinal,
whose flatterers did not fail to persuade him that the victory was due
to his own admirable arrangements, rather than to the valour of any of
the generals who had braved the dangers of the hazardous expedition; and
he consequently sought to excite the jealousy and suspicion of Louis
against the zealous Marechal, who little imagined that his prowess in
the field was fated to involve his personal safety.

The sojourn at Susa, a wretched locality in which, while awaiting the
ratification of the treaties consequent upon its capture, Louis could
not even enjoy the diversion of hunting, soon exhausted the patience of
the monarch, who declared his intention of returning to France previous
to the conclusion of the necessary arrangements; and although he was
earnestly entreated by Soranzo, the Venetian Ambassador, to forego his
purpose, he resolutely refused to listen to his representations; and on
the 28th of April he accordingly commenced his homeward journey, simply
taking the precaution, in order to satisfy his several allies, of
leaving Richelieu with a strong body of troops, and full authority to
terminate as he should see fit the pending negotiations. The Cardinal,
however, felt as little inclination as his royal master to waste his
time and to exhaust his energies at such a distance from the Court; and
thus to enable his enemies to gain the unoccupied ear of the King, who
was, as he had already experienced, easily swayed by those about him.
During his absence from the capital his emissaries had been careful to
report to him every movement of the Queen-mother and the Duc d'Orleans;
and he felt that he was lost should they again succeed in acquiring the
confidence of the weak and wavering Louis. Within a fortnight after the
departure of the monarch, he consequently made his own hasty
preparations for a similar retreat; and having placed six thousand
infantry and five hundred horse under the command of the Marechal de
Crequy, with orders that he should vigilantly guard the several passes
and rigidly enforce the orders of the King, he set forth in his turn
for Paris, in order to counteract the designs of the rival faction.

Meanwhile Marie de Medicis and Gaston d'Orleans had been consistent in
their policy; and on the arrival of Louis in Paris he was assured that
time had only tended to embitter their misunderstanding on the subject
of the Princesse de Gonzaga; a fact which was no sooner ascertained by
Richelieu than he resolved to profit by so promising an opportunity of
regaining the good graces of the royal Duke. This was precisely the
result which both the mother and son had desired; for while the former
sought to secure a pretext for complaint against the ingratitude and
treachery of the individual whose fortunes had been her own work, and
who now evinced a disposition to build up his prosperity upon the
disobedience of her best-beloved child, the latter had many and forcible
reasons for being equally delighted to see the ordinarily-astute
Cardinal taken in his own toils, and readily consented to second the
irritated Queen-mother in her attempt to effect his overthrow. During
the first few days which succeeded the arrival of the King in Paris,
every circumstance tended to increase the hopes of Marie de Medicis.
Louis made no secret of his satisfaction at the firmness which she had
evinced, and displayed towards her a confidence and respect by which she
was assured that his prejudices were shaken;[117] but the sudden
apparition of the Cardinal reawakened all her anxiety.

His advent was no sooner announced than a swarm of velvet-clad and
bejewelled nobles hastened to Nemours to bid him welcome; and thence
they served as his escort to Fontainebleau, where the Court was then
sojourning, and whither he travelled in a covered litter, followed by
the Marechaux de Bassompierre, de Schomberg, and de Marillac. On
reaching the palace Richelieu at once proceeded to the apartments of the
Queen-mother, accompanied by the Cardinals de La Valette and de Berulle,
and the other nobles who had joined him on the road; where he found
himself in the presence not only of Marie de Medicis, but also in that
of the young Queen, the Princesses, and all the great ladies of the
Court, by the whole of whom he was very coldly received; and the blood
mounted to his brow as Marie de Medicis replied to his lowly salutation
by a slight curtsey, and a formal inquiry after his health.

"I am well, Madame," he answered petulantly; "better than many of those
whom I see in your company may have desired."

The Tuscan Princess turned haughtily away; but as her eyes fell upon the
Cardinal de Berulle, her confessor, her features relaxed into a smile,
which was not unobserved by the irritated minister.

"Ah, Madame," he said, striving to rally alike his temper and his hopes,
and addressing his royal mistress with the familiarity of old times,
"would that I were possessed of the same amount of favour as M.
de Berulle."

"Oh, Monseigneur," replied the Queen drily, "I was laughing at the
extraordinary breeches of the reverend Cardinal."

This retort turned the gaze of the whole circle upon her confessor, who,
on taking the road, had discarded his flowing purple robes, and attired
himself in a short vest, a pair of _haut-de-chausses_, and white boots;
and the smile immediately became general.[118]

Richelieu bit his lips with an impatient gesture; and then, in order to
divert the attention of the courtiers from the discomfited Jesuit, he
hastened to present to their Majesties the three marshals who were in
his suite. Marie de Medicis bowed to each in succession, but addressed
herself only to M. de Marillac; and the scene was becoming each instant
more embarrassing when the usher on duty threw back the tapestried
hangings of the door, and announced "The King."

The face of Louis beamed with delight as he extended his hand to the
minister, and welcomed him once more to the capital; but the brow of
Richelieu remained clouded until he was led away by the monarch, with
whom he continued in conversation for a considerable time, complaining
bitterly of the reception which he had met with from the Queen-mother,
and requesting permission to retire from office and to leave the Court.
To this proposition Louis, however, refused to accede, declaring that
whatever might be the cause of the Queen's displeasure, he would soon
find some means of effecting their reconciliation.

As, however, after the lapse of several days, Marie de Medicis evinced
no disposition to display greater cordiality towards her late favourite,
Richelieu deemed it expedient to adopt more stringent measures; and he
accordingly sent for his niece Madame de Comballet, who was lady of
honour to the young Queen, M. de la Meilleraye his kinsman, who was also
a member of her household, and several other persons who were devoted to
his interests, and who held places about the Court, and desired them to
tender their resignations, as he was about to withdraw from office.
Intelligence of this order soon reached the ears of the King, by whom it
was violently opposed; and at his earnest entreaty the Queen-mother was
at length induced to pardon the Cardinal, who with the utmost humility
professed his utter unconsciousness of all offence, and his deep regret
at the displeasure exhibited by her Majesty. But neither Richelieu nor
Marie was the dupe of this hollow peace, although both were willing for
the moment to pacify the monarch, who was also anxious for the return of
his brother; Gaston having, on the first intimation of the expected
arrival of Louis in the capital, withdrawn to Lorraine,[119] and placed
himself under the protection of the ducal sovereign, who received his
royal guest with the greatest magnificence.

Worthless as he was individually, Gaston was destined throughout his
whole career to serve as a rallying-point for the ambition of all the
princes and nobles who sought to aggrandize themselves and their
families; while, as presumptive heir to the French throne, he was
welcomed by the Duc de Lorraine with every demonstration of respect and
regard. Aware of the puerile vanity of the princely fugitive, the Duke
stood bareheaded in his presence, and never presumed to seat himself
until he had received an invitation to do so. Moreover, he had been
instructed by the Spanish Cabinet to exert all his best energies to win
over the Prince to his interests;[120] a suggestion upon which he acted
so skilfully that the little Court of Lorraine became a perpetual scene
of festivity and amusement, of which the frivolous and fickle Gaston was
at once the object and the centre. Nor was there wanting in the ducal
circle an attraction even greater than the splendid _fetes_ and
brilliant assemblies at which Monsieur fluttered and feasted in all the
triumph of his weak and selfish nature. The Princesse Marguerite, the
younger sister of M. de Lorraine, soon weaned the changeful fancy of
Gaston from the persecuted Marie de Gonzaga; nor had he long resided at
Nancy before his marked attentions to the beautiful and accomplished
Princess became the subject of general comment.[121]

This state of things seriously alarmed the Cardinal, who, in addition to
his hatred of the Guises, apprehended the worst consequences should the
Prince be permitted thus to emancipate himself from the royal authority,
and to play the quasi-sovereign with impunity; and, accordingly, only a
few weeks after the establishment of Gaston in Lorraine, he sent the
Cardinal de Berulle and the Duc de Bellegarde to Nancy to negotiate his
return. Aware of his advantage, however, the Prince showed no
inclination to yield to the solicitations of the minister; and demanded
in the event of his compliance a provincial government in appanage.
Rendered more and more anxious by this pertinacity, Richelieu, even
while refusing to concede the required boon, heaped offer upon offer
without effect, until the Marechal de Marillac, more successful than the
two previous envoys, induced Gaston to accept as a substitute for the
government which he demanded the fortresses of Orleans and Amboise, with
a hundred thousand livres a year, and fifty thousand crowns in ready
money. An agreement to this effect was drawn up; after which Monsieur
pledged himself to return to Court, and to submit in all things to the
pleasure of the King and the Queen-mother; an idle promise, where his
hostility to the minister constantly urged him to opposition; but which
served to tranquillize the mind of Louis, who, being about once more to
renew the war in Italy, was desirous of securing peace within his
own capital.

Immediately after the departure of the Cardinal from Susa, the armies of
Austria and Spain had advanced to the centre of Italy, and the power of
France beyond the Alps was consequently threatened with annihilation. In
this extremity Richelieu instantly directed the concentration of all the
frontier forces upon Piedmont, and declared war against the Duke of
Savoy; but as the whole responsibility of this campaign would
necessarily devolve upon himself, he demanded of the King that an
unlimited authority should be granted to him, in the event of his
Majesty declining to head the army in person. With this demand Louis
unhesitatingly complied; and on the 29th of December the Cardinal left
Paris as lieutenant-general of the royal forces, escorted by ten
companies of the King's bodyguard, and surrounded by upwards of a
hundred nobles.[122]

Previously to his departure, however, he entertained the King, the two
Queens, and the principal nobility at one of those elaborate _fetes_
which have now become merely legendary; and which combined a comedy, a
concert, and a ballet, with other incidental amusements, sufficient, as
it would appear in these days, to have afforded occupation for a week
even to the most dissipated pleasure-seekers; but which during the reign
of Louis XIII excited emulation rather than surprise.

Richelieu had scarcely commenced his march, when the King resolved in
his turn to proceed to Italy with a force of forty thousand men; a
determination which was no sooner made known to the Queen-mother than
she expressed her intention of bearing him company in this new
expedition; as, superadded to her anxiety to counterbalance by her
presence the influence of the Cardinal, she was moreover desirous of
preventing a rupture with Spain, and of protecting the Duke of Savoy,
whom she secretly favoured.[123]

The never-ceasing intrigues of the Court had once more sowed dissension
between the two Queens; and it is here necessary to state that on the
death of the Comtesse de Lannoy, which had occurred towards the close of
the preceding year, her post of lady of honour to Anne of Austria had
been conferred upon the Marquise de Senecay,[124] while that previously
held by Madame de Senecay was bestowed upon Madame du Fargis. As these
arrangements had been made without any reference to the wishes of the
Queen herself, she expressed great indignation at an interference with
the internal economy of her household which was generally attributed to
Marie de Medicis; but her anger reached its climax when she ascertained
that the Comtesse du Fargis was the fast friend of Madame de
Comballet,[125] the niece of Richelieu. Apprehensive of the consequences
likely to accrue to herself from such an intimacy, Anne of Austria for
some time refused to admit the new Mistress of the Robes into her
private circle, alleging that her apartments were not sufficiently
spacious to accommodate the relatives and spies of a minister who had
already succeeded in embittering her existence. All opposition on her
part was, however, disregarded; the ladies were officially installed;
and although the Queen made no secret of her annoyance, and loudly
inveighed against both Richelieu and her royal mother-in-law for the
indignity to which she was thus subjected, they retained their places,
and endeavoured, by every demonstration of respect and devotion, to gain
the good graces of their irritated mistress. In this endeavour one of
them only was destined to succeed, and that one, contrary to all
expectation, was the beautiful and witty Comtesse du Fargis, whose
fascinations soon won the heart of the young Queen, and who was
fortunate enough to secure alike her confidence and her esteem; nor was
it long ere she profited by her advantage to attempt a reconciliation
between Marie de Medicis and her offended daughter-in-law; urged
thereto, as some historians assert, by the advice of the Cardinal de
Berulle, but more probably by her own affection for the Queen-mother, in
whose household she had formerly held the same office which she now
filled in that of Anne of Austria.

Her project, however, presented considerable difficulty. The King had
suddenly become more assiduous than he had ever yet shown himself in his
attendance upon the Court of Marie de Medicis, constantly joining her
evening circle, and absenting himself entirely from the apartments of
his royal consort; a circumstance which Anne did not fail to attribute
to the evil offices of the Tuscan Princess, who, as she asserted, was
perpetually labouring to undermine her dignity, and to usurp her
position, Soon, however, it became rumoured that it was to no effort on
her own part that the Queen-mother was indebted for the constant society
of the monarch, but rather to the attractions of one of her maids of
honour; and that for the first time in his life Louis XIII evinced
symptoms of a passion to which he had hitherto been supposed
invulnerable. Mademoiselle de Hautefort, the object of this apparent
preference, was remarkable rather for intellect than beauty; her
conversational powers were considerable, her mind well cultivated, and
her judgment sound. She was, moreover, totally without ambition,
virtuous from principle, and an enemy to all intrigue.

On first being made acquainted with the presumed infidelity of her royal
consort, Anne of Austria exhibited the most unmeasured anger, and was
unsparing in her menaces of vengeance; but it was not long ere Madame du
Fargis succeeded in convincing her that she had nothing to fear from
such a rival, and that she would act prudently in affecting not to
perceive the momentary fancy of the King for the modest and unassuming
maid of honour.

"You have only to consult your mirror, Madame," she said with an accent
of conviction which at once produced its effect upon the wounded vanity
of the Queen, "to feel that you are beyond an apprehension of this
nature. Believe me when I assert that, were his Majesty capable of such
a passion as that which is now attributed to him, he could not remain
insensible to your own attractions. Mademoiselle de Hautefort is
amiable, and amuses the indolence of the King; but did he seek more than
mere amusement, it is in yourself alone that he could find the qualities
calculated to awaken the feeling which you deprecate."

Anne of Austria listened with complacency to a species of consolation
which she could not but acknowledge to be based on probability, as she
was conscious that even in the midst of the most brilliant Court in
Europe her own beauty was remarkable; and although she still indulged in
a sentiment of irritation against the Queen-mother, through whose agency
the King had formed so dangerous an intimacy,[126] she nevertheless
consented to conceal her discontent, and to maintain at least a
semblance of cordiality with her illustrious relative; a policy which
the approaching departure of the monarch rendered imperative.

The influence of Marie de Medicis over the mind of the King had, as we
have shown, seriously diminished after the return of Richelieu to the
capital; while the necessity of pursuing the campaign in Italy had
rendered the services of his able minister more than ever essential to
Louis, who was aware of his personal inefficiency to overcome the perils
by which he was menaced on all sides; and who had so long ceased to sway
the sceptre of his own kingdom, that he was compelled to acknowledge to
himself that the master-spirit which had evoked the tempest was alone
able to avert its effects. This conviction sufficed to render him deaf
to all remonstrances, and at length induced him sullenly to command
their discontinuance. He declared that every one about him felt a
delight in calumniating the Cardinal, and on all occasions he
ostentatiously displayed towards the triumphant minister the utmost
confidence and affection.

As the Queen-mother became convinced that all her efforts to undermine
the influence of Richelieu must for the present prove abortive, she
ceased to expostulate, and turned her whole attention towards the
reconciliation of the royal brothers. Aware that the Dukes of Lorraine
and Savoy were seeking by every means in their power to increase the
discontent of Gaston,[127] and that Charles Emmanuel had offered him a
safe retreat in Turin, and an army to support him should he desire to
overthrow the power of the Cardinal by whom he had been reduced to the
position of a mere subject without authority or influence,[128] she
wrote in earnest terms to caution him against such insidious advice; and
urged upon the King the expediency of recalling him to Paris, and
investing him with the command both of the city itself and of the
surrounding provinces during his own absence from the kingdom.

In reply to the entreaties of his mother, Gaston declared his
willingness to become reconciled to the King, and to serve him to the
best of his ability; but he at the same time requested that she would
not exact from him any similar condescension as regarded Richelieu,
whom he looked upon as his most dangerous enemy, and on whom he was
resolved one day to revenge himself. Against this determination Marie de
Medicis felt no disposition to offer any expostulations, as it accorded
with her own feelings; and she consequently merely represented to the
Prince the necessity of concealing his sentiments from the King (whom
she had induced to comply with her request), and to make immediate
preparations for his return to France.[129]

FOOTNOTES:

[111] Siri, _Mem. Rec_. vol. vi. pp. 511-558.

[112] Bassompierre, _Mem_. vol. iii. p. 186.

[113] Gaston d'Orleans, _Mem_. pp. 86, 87. Mezeray, vol. xi. p. 367.

[114] Le Vassor, vol. vi. pp. 21-23.

[115] Capefigue, vol. iv. pp. 278, 279.

[116] Mezeray, vol. xi. pp. 368, 369.

[117] Le Vassor, vol. vi. pp. 111-114.

[118] Capefigue, vol. iv. pp. 280-282.

[119] Bassompierre, _Mem_. vol. iii. pp. 235, 236.

[120] Capefigue, vol. iv. pp. 287, 288.

[121] Gaston d'Orleans, _Mem_. pp. 88, 89. Mesdames de Lorraine were
related to Charles I., through Mary Queen of Scots, his grandmother, who
was the daughter of a Princess of that House.

[122] Capefigue, vol. iv. pp. 288-298. Mezeray, vol. xi. pp. 370, 371.

[123] Le Vassor, vol. vi. pp. 252, 253.

[124] Marie Catherine de la Rochefoucauld, the widow of Henri de
Beaufremont, Marquis de Senecay. She died in 1677, at the age of
eighty-nine years.

[125] Marie Madeline de Vignerot, Dame de Comballet, afterwards Duchesse
d'Aiguillon.

[126] Brienne, _Mem_. vol. ii. pp. 2-4.

[127] _Mercure Francais_, 1629.

[128] Siri, _Mem. Rec_. vol. vi. pp. 789, 790.

[129] Le Vassor, vol. vi. pp. 254, 255.

CHAPTER VII

1630

Gaston returns to France--Precarious position of the Frencharmies--Death
of the Duke of Savoy--The French besiege Pignerol--Richelieu urges
the King to possess himself of the Duchy of Savoy--Marie de Medicis opposes
the measure--Louis XIII overruns Savoy--The French lose Mantua--Jules
Mazarin--The King is attacked by fever at Lyons--Moral effects
of his indisposition--He consents to dismiss the Cardinal from
office--Reconciliation of the royal family--The Court return
to the capital--Richelieu endeavours to regain the favour of
the Queen-mother--Policy of Marie--Richelieu seeks to effect
the disgrace of Marillac--The two Queens unite their interests--Meeting
of the royal brothers--Gaston inveighs bitterly against the Cardinal--The
Queen-mother takes up her abode at the Luxembourg--Louis proceeds
in state to bid her welcome--Monsieur publicly affronts Richelieu--A
treaty is concluded with Italy--Public rejoicings in Paris--Marie
dismisses the Cardinal and his relations from her household--A
drama at Court--Richelieu prepares to leave Paris; but is dissuaded,
and follows the King to Versailles--Exultation of the citizens
at the anticipated overthrow of the Cardinal-minister--The
courtiers crowd the Luxembourg--Bassompierre at fault--Triumph
of Richelieu--Hypocrisy of the Cardinal--"The Day of Dupes"--A
regal minister--The Marillacs are disgraced--Anne of Austria is
suspected of maintaining a secret correspondence with Spain--Gaston
conspires with the two Queens against Richelieu--Divided state of
the French Court--A _fete_ at the Louvre.

At the close of January 1630 the Duc d'Orleans, in compliance with his
promise, took leave of the Court of Lorraine; and early in February he
crossed the French frontier, and had an interview with the King, who had
already reached Troyes, accompanied by the two Queens and their several
households. At this meeting the royal brothers displayed towards each
other an amount of confidence which gladdened the heart of the
Queen-mother, to whom their long estrangement had been a subject of
perpetual grief and anxiety; nor was their good understanding lessened
for an instant until their separation upon the departure of Louis for
Lyons, when Monsieur in his turn proceeded to Orleans, where he remained
until the middle of March; and thence he finally returned to Paris
towards the close of April, to assume his command.[130]

As the Cardinal had foreseen, there was little time to be lost in
retrieving the fortunes of the French armies. Casal in Montferrat, which
was held by M. de Thoiras,[131] was besieged by the Marquis de
Spinola,[132] with an immense force, and he earnestly demanded the sum
of fifty thousand crowns for defraying the arrears due to his troops,
who had begun to murmur, and threatened to surrender. The Germans had
once more attacked Mantua, which they ultimately took; and the armies of
MM. de la Force and de Schomberg were suffering from sickness, famine,
and desertions, and, moreover, harassed by the troops of the Duke of
Savoy. Charles Emmanuel meanwhile was advancing in person upon Savillan,
in order to provoke an engagement with the French forces; and on every
side difficulty and danger loomed over the banners of Louis, when the
Duke of Savoy was suddenly attacked by apoplexy and expired towards the
close of January. He was succeeded by Victor Amedee his elder son, who
was the husband of Madame Christine de France, the sister of the French
King; and it was anticipated that the closeness of this alliance would
at once terminate all aggressive measures on the part of France, and
that the new Duke would be suffered to take peaceful possession of his
inheritance. Such, however, was not the policy of the Cardinal, and
accordingly the operations already directed against the Duchy were
suffered to proceed.

Shortly after the arrival of the King at Lyons he received a despatch
from the minister stating that he had taken Pignerol, and thus secured a
safe passage for his Majesty into Italy; and that he was about to join
him at Lyons, in order to receive his further commands.

On his arrival he was warmly welcomed by Louis, whom he easily induced
to accompany him on his return to the seat of war; for although in his
despatches Richelieu had affected to attach an immense importance to the
conquest of Pignerol, he was aware that the honour of the French nation
must be compromised should her armies be thus checked at the very
commencement of the expedition, and he consequently urged the King at
once to possess himself of the Duchy of Savoy; an undertaking which
presented so little difficulty that its success was certain. In vain did
Marie de Medicis represent the injury which Louis must, by such an
enterprise, inflict upon his sister; the project flattered the vanity of
the King, and accordingly on the 14th of May the vanguard of the French
army entered the Duchy, and before the middle of the ensuing month the
whole of Savoy, with the exception of Montmelian, was in the possession
of his troops. This puny triumph was, however, counterbalanced and
outweighed by the disasters at Casal and Mantua, the former of which,
from the failure of provisions and reinforcements, fell into the hands
of Spinola; while the latter, after having had twenty-five thousand of
its inhabitants carried off by the plague, was ultimately lost through
treason, and delivered over to pillage by the Imperialist generals.

From Savoy the Cardinal endeavoured to induce Louis to advance into the
district of Maurienne, but from this project he was strongly dissuaded
by the Queen-mother, who had, during the campaign in Savoy, remained at
Lyons with Anne of Austria, Marillac the Keeper of the Seals, and other
discontented nobles who were opposed to the war in Italy, and were
anxious for peace at any price. Negotiations to that effect were,
moreover, pending; and Urban VIII had offered himself as arbitrator
through the medium of Jules Mazarin,[133] a young man of twenty-eight
years of age, whom he had appointed internuncio for that purpose. The
talent and energy displayed by the Papal envoy in a position of so much
difficulty enchanted Richelieu, who at once recognized in the juvenile
diplomatist a congenial spirit, and he determined to attach him to the
interests of France. But even while he did full justice to the
precocious ability of Mazarin, the minister nevertheless bitterly
complained that the violent measures adopted by the Queen-mother and her
party rendered the prospect of a peace impossible; and that they
attached too great an importance to the pending negotiations, and
overacted their uneasiness on the subject of the King's health, and
their terrors of the plague.[134] These arguments sufficed to reassure
Louis XIII, who, delighted at his success in Savoy, and intoxicated by
the plaudits of his courtiers, was eager to pursue a war from which he
hoped to acquire fresh reputation; and accordingly, disregarding the
expostulations of the peace party, he advanced to St. Jean-de-Maurienne;
and the aggressive measures so earnestly deprecated by Marie de Medicis
were continued.

[Illustration: MAZARIN.]

The King had, however, scarcely joined the camp when he was attacked by
fever; and his condition soon became so dangerous that it was deemed
expedient to remove him in a litter to Lyons, while his armies were
still engaged in the sieges of Pignerol and Casal. For several days he
continued hovering between life and death; and his strength was at
length so utterly exhausted that his physicians believed him to be
beyond all further hope. Monarchs are mere mortals on a bed of
sickness; and Louis XIII was far from being an exception to the rule.
Stubborn and wilful when in health, he no sooner became the prey of
disease, and pondered over the prophecies of the astrologers who had
foretold his early demise, than he suffered himself to be governed
without resistance by those about him; the ties of kindred, and the
claims of family affection, resumed their rights; duties long neglected
were admitted and recognized; he bewailed the past, and despaired of the
future. It was therefore not possible that such an opportunity should be
neglected by Marie de Medicis, who, even while watching over his
sick-bed with an assiduity and care which were emulated by her royal
daughter-in-law, eagerly availed herself of her advantage to shake the
power of Richelieu. In this attempt she was zealously seconded by Anne
of Austria; and the combined tears and entreaties of the two Queens at
length so far prevailed over the inclinations of Louis as to wring from
him a promise that, should he survive, he would dismiss his minister so
soon as he should have once more reached the capital.

"I cannot, Madame," he replied to the earnest solicitation of Marie de
Medicis that he would act upon the instant, "comply with your request at
an earlier period than that which I have named. The Cardinal is now
fully occupied with the affairs of Italy, and his services are essential
to their success. Let us not be precipitate. Suffer him to conclude the
pending negotiations; and I pledge myself, on my return to Paris, both
to exclude him from the Council and to dismiss him from the government
of the state."

With this assurance the Queen-mother was compelled to appear satisfied,
although she panted for more immediate vengeance; and so grateful did
the King express himself for the unceasing tenderness and vigilance of
the two Queens, that he listened without remonstrance to their
complaints. As, contrary to the anticipations of the faculty, he rallied
from the attack, he became even more indulgent; an extent of confidence
and affection hitherto unknown reigned in the royal circle; and
when he heard Marie and her daughter-in-law attribute all their
humiliations and sufferings to the Cardinal alone, while they
entirely exonerated himself, he did not scruple to deplore the
misstatements of others by which he had been induced to disregard
their previous expostulations.[135]

The convalescence of Louis was no sooner assured than he resolved to
return to Paris, believing that his native air would hasten his complete
recovery; and accordingly, after having entreated Marie de Medicis to
dissemble her displeasure against Richelieu until he should be prepared
to dismiss him from office, the Court commenced its homeward journey.
The Cardinal meanwhile, although necessarily ignorant of the pledge
given by the King, had learnt enough to convince him that the faction of
the Queen-mother had been actively seeking to undermine his influence
during the sojourn of the monarch at Lyons, and he consequently resolved
to accompany the royal party to the capital; his weak health forming a
sufficient pretext for this determination. Having made his final
arrangements, he accordingly proceeded to Roanne in order to join the
Queen-mother, and to endeavour during the journey to reinstate himself
in her favour.

In compliance with the request of the King, Marie de Medicis met the
astute minister with a dissimulation equal to his own; and even affected
to feel flattered when he demanded her permission for his litter to
travel immediately behind her own. It was not, however, until the royal
barge had received its august freight, and begun to descend the Loire,
that the Cardinal had an opportunity of fully enacting the courtly
character which he had assigned to himself in this serious emergency. As
the Queen-mother lay upon her couch the minister stood obsequiously
beside her, beneath the crimson canopy by which she was overshadowed,
occasionally dropping upon his knee in an attitude of profound and
affectionate respect; a voluntary homage to which Marie replied by
conversing with him in the most endearing terms; addressing him more
than once as _mio caro! amico del cuore mio!_ and other soft and
flattering appellations.

To Richelieu it seemed for the time as though the past had come back
upon him, but he deceived himself; the Florentine Princess had but drawn
a glove over a hand of iron, a fact which he ascertained before the
termination of the journey, as well as the whole extent of the intrigue
at Lyons; but this knowledge did not for a moment affect his deportment
towards the Queen-mother, for whom he continued to evince the deepest
veneration, while he carefully noted the bearing of those by whom she
was surrounded, in order that he might one day be enabled to wreak his
vengeance upon such as had participated in the cabal.

The most zealous partisans of Marie de Medicis were at this period the
two Marillacs and the Ducs de Guise and de Bellegarde; while her
confidential friends of her own sex were the Duchesse d'Elboeuf and the
Princesse de Conti. Of these the most obnoxious to Richelieu was the
elder Marillac, the Keeper of the Seals. This minister was indebted to
the Cardinal for the office which he held; and even while Richelieu was
plotting the ruin of his own benefactress, he could not brook that a man
whom he had himself raised to power should dare to oppose his will, or
to succeed him in the good graces of the Queen-mother. He had, moreover,
ascertained that Marillac, who had, in the first instance, attached
himself to Marie de Medicis at the suggestion of his brother the
Marechal, had rendered her such good service that she had pledged
herself to make him Prime Minister on his own dismissal. Nor was this
the only cause of anxiety to which Richelieu was at this moment exposed;
as during the indisposition of the King a strong affection had grown up
between the two Queens, while the Duc d'Orleans no longer made any
effort to conceal his animosity; and thus the Cardinal found himself
placed in opposition to the whole of the royal family with the
exception of the sovereign.

Gaston d'Orleans was no sooner apprised of the approach of Louis to the
capital than he hastened to Montargis to receive him, and the meeting
was one of great cordiality on both sides; but the King had scarcely
urged upon his brother the expediency of a reconciliation with the
Cardinal, ere the Prince violently complained of the indignities to
which he had been subjected by Richelieu, and insisted that he had just
reason to hate him. Alarmed by the unmeasured vehemence of Gaston, the
King entreated him to be more calm, and to accede to his request; but
Monsieur, after bowing profoundly, remained silent; and shortly
afterwards withdrew.

On her arrival in Paris, Marie de Medicis at once proceeded to the
palace of the Luxembourg, which she had recently built, and embellished
with those treasures of art which had rendered it one of the most regal
residences in the kingdom. During the first three days of her sojourn
there, the gates were closed, and no visitors were admitted; but on the
fourth, the King, who had taken up his abode at Versailles, arrived,
accompanied by the Cardinal, and followed by all the great nobles, to
welcome her back to Paris. Louis had no sooner saluted his mother than
he remarked the absence of the Duc d'Orleans, and on expressing his
surprise that the Prince had not hastened to meet him, he was informed
that his Highness was indisposed. As he was about to despatch one of
his retinue with a message of condolence, Gaston was suddenly announced;
who, after having paid his respects to their Majesties, stepped back to
receive the compliments of the courtiers. At this moment he was accosted
by the Cardinal, but before the latter had time to utter a syllable,
Monsieur abruptly turned his back upon him, and entered into
conversation with the nobles who stood near. Enraged by this public
affront, Richelieu immediately approached the Queen-mother, and bitterly
complained of the insult to which he had been subjected; but Marie, in
her turn, answered coldly: "Monsieur has merely treated you as you
deserve." A retort which only served to embitter the indignation of the
minister, who at once perceived that, in order to save himself from
ruin, he must forthwith possess himself of the ear of the King, and
strike a decisive blow.

The moment was a favourable one, as intelligence shortly afterwards
reached the Court that a treaty of peace with Italy on the most
advantageous terms for France had been concluded, and all was
consequently joy and gratulation throughout the capital. Showers of
rockets ascended from the palaces of the Louvre, the Luxembourg, and St.
Germain, which to the faction of Richelieu celebrated the triumph of his
exploits beyond the Alps, while to that of the Queen-mother they
indicated the downfall of the Cardinal, which it was anticipated would
succeed the cessation of hostilities. So convinced indeed was Marie de
Medicis that her time of trial was at length over that she disdained to
conceal her exultation; and as the first-fruits of her presumed victory
she determined to dismiss from her service alike Richelieu himself, who
had been appointed superintendent of her household, and every member of
his family who was about her person.

In pursuance of this resolution she hastened to inform the Cardinal that
she declined his further offices; and before he could recover from the
surprise occasioned by so abrupt an announcement, she turned towards the
Marquis de la Meilleraye, the captain of her bodyguard, adding in the
same cold and haughty tone in which she had just addressed his kinsman:
"Nor will I longer retain you here, sir; you must also retire." Finally,
as Madame de Comballet entered the apartment, unconscious of the scene
which was then being enacted, she applied to her the most humiliating
epithets, and commanded her immediately to quit the palace. In vain did
the niece of Richelieu throw herself upon her knees, weeping bitterly,
and entreating the pardon of her royal mistress, without even inquiring
into the nature of her offence; Marie de Medicis remained inflexible,
and sternly ordered her to withdraw. The command was obeyed; and as she
left the apartment Madame de Comballet was followed by the Cardinal,
who, bewildered by this sudden and astonishing change of attitude, did
not even attempt to expostulate. After this first exhibition of her
recovered power the Queen-mother stepped into her private closet, where
she was shortly joined by the King; and he had no sooner entered than
she desired the usher on duty to leave the room, and to refuse ingress
to all comers, be they whom they might; after which, with her own hand,
she drew the heavy bolts across the doors that he had closed behind him,
and returned to the King, whose gesture of surprise and annoyance she
affected not to remark. She had passed the Rubicon, and she felt that
she had no time to lose if she did not desire to become herself the
victim of the struggle in which she was engaged; and thus having
announced to her son the dismissal of Richelieu and his relatives from
her personal service, she continued the conversation by reminding him of
the pledge which he had given at Lyons, and urging the immediate removal
of the obnoxious minister from office. Louis, weak and wavering as was
his wont, endeavoured to temporize, declaring that the crisis was one of
too much difficulty to admit of so extreme a measure at that moment, and
entreating her to sanction his delaying for a few weeks the fulfilment
of his promise; but Marie was aware that she stood upon the brink of a
precipice, and she became only the more importunate in her demands, and
the more bitter in her sarcasms.

"Are you indeed the sovereign of France, and the son of Henry the
Great?" she asked passionately; "and do you quail before a subject, and
place your sceptre in other hands, when you were born to wield it in
the eyes of Europe?"

"I cannot dispense with the services of the Cardinal," was the sullen
reply; "and you would do well, Madame, to become reconciled to a man who
is essential to the welfare of the kingdom."

"_Per Dio_! never!" exclaimed the Queen resolutely, while tears of rage
burst from her eyes, and the blood mounted to her brow. "France, and the
widow of her former monarch, can alike dispense with the good services
of Armand de Richelieu, the false friend, the treacherous servant, and
the ambitious statesman. It is time that both were delivered from his
thrall. Do not fear, Sir, that our noble nation can produce no other
minister as able as, and at the same time more trustworthy than, the man
who, when he bends his knee before you, is in heart clutching at
your crown."

"What mean you, Madame?" asked the suspicious King, starting from his
seat.

"Ask your good citizens, Sire, by whom they are governed," was the
impetuous answer of the excited Queen; "ask your nobles and barons by
whom they are oppressed and thwarted, when they would feign recognize
their sovereign alone as their ruler; ask your brave armies who has
reaped the glory for which you have imperilled your health, and gone
near to sacrifice your life. Do you shrink from the exertion necessary
to the measure that I propose?" she continued as she remarked the
effect of her words upon the King, whose wounded vanity revolted against
the idea of being considered what he really was, a puppet in the hands
of his minister. "Dismiss the apprehension. Trusting to your royal
word--and the word of an anointed monarch, Sire, is as sacred as the
oath of the first subject in his realm--I have been careful to spare you
all unnecessary fatigue. Here," and as she spoke she drew a parchment
from her bosom--"here your Majesty will find, duly drawn up, an order
for the instant retirement of the Cardinal, which requires only your
royal signature to become valid; M. de Marillac is prepared, with your
sanction, to replace him, and to serve you with equal zeal, and far more
loyalty than he has done. Subscribe your name at the bottom of this
document; and then ride forth into the streets of your good city of
Paris, and as the news spreads among your people, see if one single
voice will be raised for the recall of _Maitre Gonin_." [136]

As Marie de Medicis uttered these words a slight noise caused her to
glance from the King towards the direction whence it proceeded; and
there, standing in the opening of a door which communicated with her
oratory, she saw before her the Cardinal de Richelieu.

Aware that the monarch was closeted with his mother, and apprehending
the worst consequences to himself should the interview be suffered to
proceed without interruption, the minister had instantly resolved to
terminate it by his own presence; and for this purpose, disregarding
the affront to which he had so lately been subjected by Marie de
Medicis, he hastened to her apartments; where, having found the door of
the antechamber fastened from within, he entered a gallery which
communicated with the royal closet, at the door of which he tapped to
obtain admittance. As no answer was elicited, his alarm increased; the
heavy drapery by which the door was veiled deadened the voices within;
and after waiting for a few instants to convince himself that no ingress
could be obtained save by stratagem, he proceeded along the corridor
until he reached the oratory, where he found one of the waiting-women of
the Queen, who, unable to withstand a heavy bribe, permitted him to

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