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

Part 5 out of 6

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the royal exiles; and immediately upon the arrival of Monsieur in the
Low Countries, the mother and son began to concert measures for the
success of their difficult and dangerous undertaking. The first
impediment which they were called upon to surmount was their total
inability to defray the expenses of a powerful army, and to secure the
necessary funds for maintaining a secret correspondence with their
French adherents. The munificence of Isabella supplied all their
personal wants, but even her truly regal profusion could not be expected
to extend beyond this point; and it was ultimately agreed that both
parties should forward at all risks their jewels by a trusty messenger
to Amsterdam for sale.

This had scarcely been accomplished when intelligence reached the
Archducal Court of the trial of the Marechal de Marillac, ostensibly for
peculation, but, as the Queen-mother and her son were only too well
aware, simply for his adherence to their own cause. In vain did they
protest against so iniquitous a measure; in vain did they entreat the
interference of their friends in his behalf, and even menace his judges
with their personal vengeance, individually and collectively, should
they be induced to pronounce his condemnation; Richelieu in his
plenitude of present power overruled all their efforts; and the
unfortunate Marechal, who had incurred the hatred of the Cardinal from
his favour with Marie de Medicis, was sentenced to lose his head by the
majority of a single voice, and was executed on the following day; while
his unhappy brother expired a short time subsequently in the fortress of
Chateaudun.[170]

Meanwhile the Court of Brussels became a scene of dissension and
violence. The favourites of the Queen-mother and those of the Duc
d'Orleans were engaged in constant struggles for supremacy; the Duc de
Bellegarde and the President Le Coigneux had refused to accompany
Monsieur, who was consequently entirely under the influence of
Puylaurens, with whom he passed his nights in the most sensual and
degrading pleasures; while Marie de Medicis, under the direction of her
constant companion and confidant Chanteloupe, spent her time in
devotional duties, and in dictating to the hired writers by whom she had
surrounded herself, either pamphlets against the Cardinal, or petitions
to the Parliament of Paris.

Alarmed by the execution of Marillac, Monsieur, however, roused himself
from his trance of dissipation; and disregarding the entreaties of the
Duc de Montmorency, resolved to join the army which Gonzalez de Cordova,
the Spanish Ambassador, was concentrating at Treves, at the instigation
of Charles de Lorraine, who was anxious to delay the threatened invasion
of his own duchy by the French troops.

On the 18th of May Gaston d'Orleans accordingly took leave of the Court
of Brussels; when the Infanta, not satisfied with having during the
space of four months defrayed all the outlay of his household,
accompanied her parting compliments with the most costly and munificent
gifts, not only to the Prince himself, but also to every nobleman and
officer in his service. About the neck of Monsieur she threw a brilliant
chain of carbuncles and emeralds, from which was suspended a miniature
portrait of the King of Spain. Numerous chests of wearing apparel,
linen, and other requisites for the forthcoming campaign, swelled his
slender baggage to a thoroughly regal extent; while her treasurer was
instructed to deliver into his hands the sum of one hundred thousand
_patagons_,[171] with which to defray the expenses of the journey.[172]

Having spent a fortnight at Treves, and received the troops promised by
Philip of Spain, the Prince resolved at once to prosecute his intention
of entering France; a resolution which was earnestly combated by
Montmorency, who represented that he was yet unprovided with the
necessary funds for the maintenance of the troops, and with the means of
defence essential to the success of the enterprise. Urged, however, as
we have stated, by the Duc de Lorraine, and presuming upon the prestige
of his name, Gaston refused to listen to this remonstrance; and after
having traversed the territories of his brother-in-law, he hurriedly
pursued his march through Burgundy at the head of his slender body of
Spanish cavalry. Contrary, however, to his expectations, he was not
joined by a single reinforcement upon the way, although his position as
heir-presumptive to the Crown secured him from any demonstration of
resistance. Langres and Dijon closed their gates against him, the
magistrates excusing themselves upon the plea that they held those
cities for the King; and on his arrival in the Bourbonnais, after
devastating all the villages upon his route, the imprudent Prince was
met by a request from M. de Montmorency that he would march his troops
through some other province, as no sufficient preparations had yet been
completed for his security in Languedoc. Once embarked in his rash
attempt, however, Gaston disdained to comply with this suggestion; and
pursued his way towards the government of the Duke, closely followed by
ten thousand men, who had been despatched against him by Richelieu,
under the command of the Marechal de la Force.

Our limits will not permit us to do more than glance at the progress of
this rash and ill-planned campaign, which, in its result, cost some of
the best and noblest blood in France. Suffice it that the Cardinal,
alarmed by the rapidity with which Monsieur advanced towards Languedoc,
and rendered still more apprehensive by the defection of the
Marechal-Duc de Montmorency, lost no time in inducing the sovereign to
place himself at the head of his army, in order to intimidate the rebels
by his presence; while, on the other hand, the States of Languedoc had
been induced through the persuasions of their Governor to register (on
the 22nd of July) a resolution by which they invited the Duc d'Orleans
to enter their province, and to afford them his protection; they
pledging themselves to supply him with money, and to continue faithful
to his interests.[173]

Montmorency, on his side, had received from Spain a promise that he
should be forthwith reinforced by six thousand men, and a considerable
amount of treasure for the payment of the troops; but Philip and his
ministers, satisfied with having kindled the embers of intestine war in
the rival kingdom, suddenly abated in their zeal; no troops were
furnished, and the whole extent of their pecuniary aid did not exceed
the sum of fifty thousand crowns, which did not, moreover, reach their
destination until the struggle was decided.

Thus Montmorency found himself crippled on all sides; and when the
rashness of Gaston had directed the march of the royal army upon
Languedoc, he was in no position to make head against them. Nevertheless
the brave spirit of the Duke revolted at the idea of submission, and he
accordingly prepared to protect himself as best he might by the seizure
of a few fortresses; and, finally, he received Monsieur at Lunel, on the
30th of July. Their combined forces amounted only to two thousand
foot-soldiers, three thousand horse, and a number of volunteers,
together with three pieces of ordnance; while, being totally destitute
of funds, there could remain but little doubt as to the issue of the
expedition.

One faint hope of success, however, still animated the insurgents. The
King, although upon his march, had not yet joined the little army of the
Marechal de Schomberg, which consisted only of a thousand infantry and
twelve hundred horse, while he was totally destitute of artillery; and
Montmorency at once perceived that hostilities must be commenced before
the junction of the royal forces could take place. Schomberg had taken
up his position near Castelnaudary, in order of battle, on the 1st of
September; and, acting upon the conviction we have named, Montmorency
determined on an attack, which, should it prove successful, could not
fail to be of essential service to the interests of Monsieur. It was
accordingly resolved that the Marechal-Duc should assume the command of
the vanguard, while Gaston placed himself at the head of the main body.
Montmorency was accompanied by the Comtes de Moret, de Rieux, and de la
Feuillade, who, after some slight skirmishes, abandoning the
comparatively safe position which they occupied, recklessly pushed
forward to support a forlorn hope which had received orders to take
possession of an advantageous post. M. de Moret, whose impetuosity
always carried him into the heart of the _melee_, was the first to
charge the royal cavalry, among whom he created a panic which threw them
into the utmost disorder; and this circumstance was no sooner
ascertained by Montmorency than, abdicating his duties as a general, he
dashed forward at the head of a small party to second the efforts of his
friend. The error was a fatal one, however, for he had scarcely cut his
way through the discomfited horsemen when some companies of Schomberg's
infantry, who had been placed in ambush in the ditches, suddenly rose
and fired a volley with such precision upon the rebel troop, that De
Moret, De Rieux, and La Feuillade, together with a number of inferior
officers, were killed upon the spot, while Montmorency himself fell to
the ground covered with wounds, his horse having been shot under him.
And meanwhile Gaston looked on without making one effort to avenge the
fate of those who had fallen in his cause; and he no sooner became
convinced that his best generals were lost to him than, abandoning the
wounded to the tender mercies of the enemy, he retreated from the scene
of action without striking a blow.[174]

As, faint from loss of blood, Montmorency lay crushed beneath the weight
of his heavy armour, he gasped out: "Montmorency! I am dying; I ask only
for a confessor." His cries having attracted the attention of M. de St.
Preuil, a Captain of the Guards, who endeavoured to extricate him, he
murmured, as he drew an enamelled ring from his finger: "Take this,
young man, and deliver it to the Duchesse de Montmorency." He then
fainted from exhaustion, and his captors hastened to relieve him of his
cuirass and his cape of buff leather, which was pierced all over by
musket balls. While they were thus engaged, the Marquis de Breze,[175]
who had been informed of his capture, hastened to the spot, and, taking
his hand, bade him be of good cheer; after which he caused him to be
placed upon a ladder covered with cloaks and straw, and thus conveyed
him to Castelnaudary.[176]

The retreat of Gaston from this ill-fated field was accomplished in the
greatest disorder; on every side whole troops of his cavalry were to be
seen galloping madly along without order or combination; and it was
consequently evident to Schomberg that nothing could prevent Monsieur
and the whole of his staff from falling into his hands, should he see
fit to make them prisoners. The Marechal possessed too much tact,
however, to make such an attempt, as in the one case he must incur the
everlasting enmity of the heir-presumptive to the Crown, or, in the
other, Gaston, roused by a feeling of self-preservation, might attempt
to renew the conflict, and finally retrieve the fortunes of the day. By
the fall of Montmorency, moreover, sufficient had been accomplished to
annihilate the faction of Monsieur; and thus the royal general offered
no impediment to the retreat of the Prince, whom he permitted to retire
in safety to Beziers with the remnant of his army.[177]

The subsequent bearing of Gaston d'Orleans was worthy of his conduct at
Castelnaudary; as, only three days after the battle, he suffered himself
to be persuaded that his best policy would be to throw himself upon the
clemency of the King. His infantry disbanded themselves in disgust, and
he was compelled to pawn his plate in order to defray the arrears of his
foreign allies; while the province of Languedoc, which regarded him as
the destroyer of its idolized Governor, returned to its allegiance, and
refused to recognize his authority.

Yet, notwithstanding these circumstances, there was a romance and an
interest attached to the position of the Prince, combating and
struggling as he affected to be, not merely for a recognition of his own
rights, but also for those of a widowed and outraged mother, which, had
he proved himself worthy of his exalted station, must have ensured to
him the regard and co-operation of a brave and generous nation; but
Gaston d'Orleans had been weighed in the balance, and had been found
wanting in all the attributes of his rank and birth, and a deep disgust
had replaced among the people the enthusiasm which his misfortunes had
previously excited. He sacrificed his friends without a pang, save in so
far as their fall involved his own success; he was ever as ready to
submit as he had been to revolt, when his personal interests demanded
the concession; and thus, satisfied that in every case he was wholly
governed by a principle of self-preservation, all save those whose
individual fortunes were hinged upon his own fell from him without
hesitation and without remorse.

Convinced that by the capture of the Duc de Montmorency he was rendered
powerless, the weak and selfish Prince, as we have said, sought only to
protect himself from the effects of his revolt; and, accordingly, when
he became aware that he could no longer contend, he expressed an
earnest desire to effect a reconciliation with his royal brother;
although, still infatuated by vanity, he proposed conditions as
exaggerated as though his position enabled him to enforce them in the
event of their rejection. It was, however, an easy task for the
negotiators to convince him that he overestimated his power, and to
induce him in a few days to make concessions as dishonourable as they
were humiliating. Not only did he consent to discontinue all intercourse
with the Courts of Spain and Lorraine, but also to forsake the interests
of the unhappy Queen-mother, who had fondly hoped to find in him a
protector and an avenger, and to abandon to the justice of the King all
those of his adherents who had incurred the royal displeasure, with the
sole exception of his personal household; in whose joint names M. de
Puylaurens pledged himself to reveal "all the particulars of such of
their past transactions as might prove injurious to the state or to the
interests of the sovereign, and to those who had the honour of being in
his service."

Even Richelieu himself could demand no more; and, accordingly, upon
these degrading terms, Monsieur received a written assurance from the
King that thenceforward he would receive him once more into favour,
re-establish him in his possessions, and permit him to reside upon that
one of his estates which should be selected by the royal pleasure,
together with the members of his household who were included in the
amnesty. This treaty was signed on the 29th of September, and the
residence assigned to Gaston was Champigny, a chateau which had
originally belonged to the ducal family of Montpensier.

Justice must, however, be rendered to the Duc d'Orleans in so far that
before he could be induced to put his hand to this degrading document he
made a vigorous effort to procure the pardon of the Marechal de
Montmorency; but the attempt was frustrated by Richelieu, who, feeling
that the Prince was in the toils, would admit of no such concession.

The agents of the Cardinal were instructed to assure Monsieur that he
had no hope of escape for himself save in an entire submission to the
will of the sovereign; and this argument proved, as he was aware that it
would do, all powerful with the individual to whom it was addressed;
while he was, moreover, assured that his own pertinacity upon this point
could only tend to injure the interests of Montmorency, which might be
safely confided to the clemency of his royal master, and that his
personal submission and obedience must exercise the most favourable
influence upon the fortunes of both.

Easily persuaded where his own interests were involved, Gaston
accordingly ceased to persist, and the young and gallant Duke was
abandoned to the vengeance of the Cardinal. Louis XIII was at Lyons when
he received intelligence of the defeat of Monsieur; and he was no sooner
assured that the rebels had not taken a single prisoner, than he
determined to make an example of every leader who had espoused their
cause whom he might encounter on his journey. Ere he reached his
destination three noble heads fell by the hand of the executioner; but
still his vengeance was not sated; nor did the exalted rank and
brilliant reputation of Montmorency serve for an instant to turn him
from his purpose. Private animosity closed all the avenues of mercy; and
the indiscretion of one meddling spirit sealed the death-warrant of the
gallant prisoner. It is asserted that when he was captured Montmorency
wore upon his arm a costly diamond bracelet, containing the portrait of
Anne of Austria, which having been perceived by Bellievre, the
commissary of Schomberg's army, who was greatly attached to the noble
captive, he affected, in order to conceal the circumstance from less
friendly eyes, to consider it expedient to subject the prisoner to a
judicial interrogatory preparatory to his trial; and when he had seated
himself beside him, ostensibly for this purpose, he succeeded with some
difficulty in wrenching the miniature from its setting. But,
notwithstanding all his precaution, the desired object was not
accomplished without exciting the attention of some individual who
hastened to apprise the Cardinal of what he had discovered, who at once
communicated the fact to Louis, embittering his intelligence by comments
which did not fail to arouse the indignation of the King, and to revive
his jealousy of his wife, while they at the same time increased his
exasperation against the rebel Duke.[178]

Montmorency was removed from Castelnaudary to Lectoure, and thence,
still suffering cruelly from his wounds, to Toulouse, reaching the
gates at the very moment when the bells of the city were ringing a
joyous peal in honour of the arrival of the King, who had hastened
thither in order to counteract by his presence any efforts which might
be made by the judges to save his life. The Duke had been escorted
throughout his journey by eight troops of cavalry well armed, his great
popularity in the province having rendered the Cardinal apprehensive
that an attempt would be made to effect his rescue; and while the
glittering train of the sovereign was pouring into the streets amid the
flourish of trumpets and the acclamations of the populace, the
unfortunate prisoner was conveyed to the Hotel-de-Ville, where he was
confined in a small chamber on the summit of the belfry-tower, "so
that," says a quaint old historian, "the ravens came about him to sport
among the stone-crop. A hundred of the Swiss Guards were on duty near
his person night and day to prevent his holding any communication with
the _capitouls_,[179] the citizens, and the public companies of the
great city of Toulouse." [180]

Immediate preparations were made for the trial of the illustrious
captive; Richelieu, who could ill brook delay when he sought to rid
himself of an enemy, having prevailed upon the King to summon a
Parliament upon the spot, instead of referring the case to the
Parliament of Paris, by whom it should fitly have been tried. Nor was
this the only precaution adopted by the vindictive Cardinal, who also
succeeded in inducing Louis to nominate the members of the Court, which
was presided over by Chateauneuf, the Keeper of the Seals, who had
commenced his career as a page of the Connetable de Montmorency, the
father of the prisoner.

As the Marshal-Duke had been taken in arms against the sovereign, and
frankly avowed his crime, his fate was soon decided. He was declared
guilty of high treason, and condemned to lose his head, his property to
be confiscated, and his estates to be divested of their prerogative
of peerage.

Not only during his trial, however, but even after his sentence had been
pronounced, the most persevering efforts were made by all his friends to
obtain its revocation. But Louis, as one of his historians has aptly
remarked, was never so thoroughly a King as when he was called upon to
punish,[181] a fact of which Richelieu was so well aware that he did not
hesitate to affect the deepest commiseration for the unhappy Duke, and
even to urge some of the principal nobles of the Court to intercede in
his behalf.

The Princesse de Conde--to win whose love Henri IV had been about to
provoke a European war--deceived by the treacherous policy of the
Cardinal, threw herself at his feet to implore him to exert his
influence over the monarch, and to induce him to spare the life of her
beloved brother; but Richelieu, instead of responding to this appeal, in
his turn cast himself on his knees beside her, and mingled his tears
with hers, protesting his utter inability to appease the anger of his
royal master.[182]

The Duc d'Epernon, who, notwithstanding his affection for Montmorency,
had declined to join the faction of Monsieur, despite his age and
infirmities also hastened to Toulouse, and in the name of all the
relatives and friends of the criminal, implored his pardon as a boon.
Nothing, however, could shake the inflexible nature of Louis, and
although he did not attempt to interrupt the appeal of the Duke further
than to command him to rise from his kneeling posture, it was
immediately evident to all about him, from his downcast eyes, and the
firm compression of his lips, that there was no hope for the culprit.

The resolute silence of the King ere long impressed M. d'Epernon with
the same conviction; and, accordingly, having waited a few moments for a
reply which was not vouchsafed, he requested the royal permission to
leave the city.

"You are at liberty to do so at your pleasure, M. le Duc," said Louis
coldly; "and I grant your request the more readily that I shall shortly
follow your example."

Nor were the citizens less eager to obtain the release of their beloved
Duke; and the house in which the King had taken up his temporary
residence was besieged by anxious crowds who rent the air with cries of
"Mercy! Mercy! Pardon! Pardon!" On one occasion their clamour became so
loud that Louis angrily demanded the meaning of so unseemly an uproar,
when the individual to whom he had addressed himself ventured to reply
that what he heard was a general appeal to his clemency, and that should
his Majesty be induced to approach the window, he would perhaps take
pity upon the people.

"Sir," replied Louis haughtily, "were I to be governed by the
inclinations of my people, I should cease to be a King!" [183]

From any other sovereign than Louis XIII a revocation of the sentence
just pronounced against one so universally beloved as Montmorency might
well have been anticipated, but the son of Henri IV was inaccessible to
mercy where his private feelings were involved; and not only did he
resist the entreaties and remonstrances by which he was overwhelmed, but
he even refused to suffer the Duchesse de Montmorency, the Princesse de
Conde, and the Duc d'Angouleme--the wife, sister, and brother-in-law of
the prisoner--to approach him. He was weary of the contest, and eager
for the termination of the tragic drama in which he played so
unenviable a part.

While all was lamentation and despair about him, and the several
churches were thronged with persons offering up prayers for the
preservation of the condemned noble, the King coldly issued his orders
for the execution, only conceding, as a special favour, that it should
take place in the court of the Hotel-de-Ville, and that the hands of the
prisoner should not be tied.[184]

Thus, on the 30th of October, the very day of his trial, perished Henri
de Montmorency, who died as he had lived, worthy of the great name which
had been bequeathed to him by a long line of ancestry, and mourned by
all classes in the kingdom.

The unfortunate Marie de Medicis, who received constant intelligence of
the movements of the rebel army, had wept bitter tears over the reverses
of her errant son; but she had no sooner ascertained that by the Treaty
of Beziers he had pledged himself to abandon her interests, than her
grief was replaced by indignation, and she complained vehemently of the
treachery to which she had been subjected. With her usual amiability,
the Archduchess Isabella sought by every means in her power to
tranquillize her mind, representing with some reason that the apparent
want of affection and respect exhibited by Gaston on that occasion had
probably been forced upon him by the danger of his own position, and
entreating that she would at least suffer the Prince to justify himself
before she condemned him for an act to which he was in all probability
compelled by circumstances. But the iron had entered into the mother's
soul, and the death of the Comtesse du Fargis, which shortly afterwards
took place, added another pang to those which she had already endured.

The beautiful lady of honour had never been seen to smile since she was
made acquainted with the fact of her mock trial and her execution in
effigy in one of the public thoroughfares of Paris. The disgrace which,
as she believed, would thenceforward attach to her name, not only
wounded her sense of womanly dignity, but also broke her heart, and a
rapid consumption deprived the unhappy Queen-mother of one of the most
devoted of her friends.

It can scarcely be matter of surprise that, rendered desperate by her
accumulated disappointments and misfortunes, Marie de Medicis at this
moment welcomed with avidity the suggestions of Chanteloupe, who urged
her to revenge upon the Cardinal the daily and hourly mortifications to
which she was exposed. At first she hearkened listlessly to his
counsels, for she was utterly discouraged; but ere long, as he unfolded
his project, she awoke from her lethargy of sorrow, and entered with
renewed vigour into the plan of vengeance which he had concerted.
Whether it were that she hoped to save the life of Montmorency, of whose
capture she had been informed, or that she trusted to effect her own
return to France by placing herself in a position to make conditions
with Richelieu, it is at least certain that she did not hesitate to
subscribe to his views, and to lend herself to the extraordinary plot of
the reverend Oratorian.

"Your Majesty is aware," said Chanteloupe, "that Monsieur has not dared
to avow his marriage with the Princesse Marguerite; and I have sure
information that the minister who endeavoured to effect a union between
his favourite niece and the Cardinal de Lorraine without success, has
now the audacity to lift his eyes to your own august son. The Queen is
childless, and Richelieu aspires to nothing less than a crown for La
Comballet."

"_Per Dio!_" exclaimed Marie, trembling with indignation.

"The lady is at present residing in the Petit Luxembourg," pursued the
monk calmly; "in the very hotel given by your Majesty to his Eminence
during the period when he possessed your favour--"

"Given!" echoed the Queen-mother vehemently. "Yes, given as you say, but
on condition that whenever I sought to reclaim it, I was at liberty to
do so on the payment of thirty thousand livres; and have you never heard
what was the result of this donation? When he proved unworthy of my
confidence I demanded the restoration of the hotel upon the terms of the
contract, but when the document was delivered into my hands, I
discovered that for livres he had substituted crowns, and that in lieu
of 'whenever she shall desire it,' he had inserted 'when the King shall
desire it.' I remonstrated against this treachery, but I remonstrated in
vain; Louis pronounced against me, and the Cardinal established his
wanton niece in my desecrated mansion, where she has held a Court more
brilliant than that of the mother of her sovereign. Nay," continued the
Queen, with increasing agitation, "the lingering atmosphere of royalty
which yet clings to the old halls has so increased the greatness of the
low-born relative of Jean Armand du-Plessis, that she has deemed it
necessary to destroy one of the walls of my own palace in order to
enlarge the limits of that which she inhabits." [185]

"It were well," said Chanteloupe, with a meaning smile, "to prove to the
lady that it is possible to exist in a more narrow lodging. The King is
absent from Paris. The Luxembourg is thinly peopled; and La Comballet
would serve admirably as a hostage."

"_Veramente, padre mio_," exclaimed Marie de Medicis, bounding from her
seat; "the thing is well imagined, and cannot fail to do us good
service. Richelieu loves his niece--too well, if we are to credit the
scandal-mongers of the Court--and with La Comballet in our hands we may
dictate whatever terms we will. To work, _padre_, to work; there is
little time to lose."

Such was the plot to which the Queen-mother imprudently accorded her
consent; and for a time everything appeared to promise success. The
nephew of Chanteloupe and a confidential valet of Marie herself were
entrusted with the secret, and instructed to make the necessary
arrangements. Relays were prepared between Paris and Brussels, and nine
or ten individuals were engaged to assist in the undertaking.
Carefully, however, as these had been selected, two of their number,
alarmed by the probable consequences of detection, had no sooner arrived
in the French capital than they revealed the plot, and the whole of the
conspirators were committed to the Bastille, while information of the
intended abduction was immediately forwarded to the King. Irritated by
such an attempt, Louis commanded that they should instantly be put upon
their trial; and at the same time he wrote with his own hand to
congratulate Madame de Comballet on her escape, and to assure her that
had she been conveyed to the Low Countries, he would have gone to
reclaim her at the head of fifty thousand men. In return for this
condescension the niece of Richelieu entreated the King to pardon the
culprits, a request with which he complied the more readily as the names
of several nobles of the Court were involved in the attempt, as well as
that of the Queen-mother.[186]

The Cardinal, however, proved less forgiving than the destined victim of
this ill-advised and undignified conspiracy. Enraged against Marie de
Medicis, and anxious to make her feel the weight of his vengeance, he
found little difficulty in inducing Louis to request Isabella to deliver
up to him Chanteloupe and the Abbe de St. Germain;[187] but the
Archduchess excused herself, declaring that as the two ecclesiastics in
question were members of the Queen-mother's household, she could not
consent to be guilty of an act of discourtesy towards her Majesty by
which she should violate the duties of hospitality; and the only
immediate result of the notable plot of the reverend Oratorian was the
increased enmity of Richelieu towards his former benefactress.

Monsieur had no sooner ascertained the fate of Montmorency, whose life
he had been privately assured would be spared in the event of his
acknowledging his fault, than he at once felt that should he remain
longer in France, not only his own safety might be compromised, but that
he must also sacrifice the confidence of his few remaining adherents; as
no one would be rash enough to brave the vengeance of the minister in
his cause, should he not openly testify his indignation at so signal an
offence. A rumour, moreover, reached him that several of the officers of
his household were to be withdrawn from his service; and Puylaurens soon
succeeded in convincing him that should he not leave the kingdom, he
must be satisfied to live thenceforward in complete subjection to
Richelieu; who, when he should ultimately ascertain the fact of his
marriage with the Princesse Marguerite, would not fail to have it
dissolved.

Already predisposed to the measure, the Prince yielded at once to the
arguments of his favourite, and secretly left Tours on the 6th of
November, accompanied only by fifteen or twenty of his friends. On his
way to Burgundy, at Montereau-faut-Yonne, he wrote a long letter to the
King, declaring that should his Majesty feel any displeasure at his thus
leaving the country, he must attribute his having done so to his
indignation against those who had caused him to take the life of the Duc
de Montmorency, to save which he would willingly have smothered his just
resentment, and sacrificed all his personal interests. He also
complained bitterly that he had received a pledge to that effect which
had been violated; and declared that he had been assured in the name of
the King that should he march towards Roussillon it would seal the fate
of the Duke, from which declaration he had inferred that by obeying the
will of his Majesty he should ensure his safety; whereas, after having
condescended to the most degrading proofs of submission, no regard had
been shown to his feelings, and no respect paid to his honour. Finally,
he announced his intention of seeking a safe retreat in a foreign
country, alleging that from the treatment to which he had been subjected
in France, he had every reason to dread the consequences of the
insignificance into which he had fallen there.

In reply to this communication Louis coldly observed: "The conditions
which I accorded to you are so far above your pretensions, that their
perusal alone will serve as an answer to what you have advanced. I will
not reply to your statement that the prospect which was held out to you
of Montmorency's life caused you to submit to those terms. Every one was
aware of your position. Had you another alternative?" [188]

Had Gaston been other than he was, the King would have been spared the
question; for it is certain that had Monsieur only possessed sufficient
courage to make the attempt, nothing could have prevented him after his
retreat from Castelnaudary from retiring into Roussillon; but to the
very close of his life, the faction-loving Prince always withdrew after
the first check, and sought to secure his own safety, rather than to
justify the expectations which his high-sounding professions were so
well calculated to create.

FOOTNOTES:

[169] Henri II, Due de Montmorency, Governor of Languedoc, etc., was the
son of Henri I, Due de Montmorency, Connetable de France. He was born on
the 30th of April 1595, and was created Admiral of France when only
eighteen years of age. His personal attractions, combined with his high
moral qualities and singular accomplishments, secured to him great and
deserved popularity. After having rendered the most brilliant services
to his country, he was induced to espouse the cause of Gaston d'Orleans,
and having imprudently exposed himself at the battle of Castelnaudary,
he was made prisoner, put upon his trial for high treason at the
instigation of the Cardinal de Richelieu, and executed at Toulouse on
the 30th of October 1632.

[170] Mezeray, vol. xi. pp. 401-405. Capefigue, vol. v. pp. 90-105.
Sismondi, vol. xxiii. pp. 188-190. Le Vassor, vol. vii. pp. 192-217.

[171] A Spanish coin, equal in value to a French crown.

[172] Gaston d'Orleans, _Mem_. p. 131. Capefigue, vol. v. p. 129.

[173] Siri, _Mem. Rec_. vol. vii. p. 552.

[174] Le Clerc, vol. ii. pp. 58-60.

[175] Urbain de Maille, Marquis de Breze, the brother-in-law of the
Cardinal de Richelieu.

[176] Capefigue, vol. v. p. 142.

[177] Mezeray, vol. xi. p. 411.

[178] Mezeray, vol. xi. pp. 415, 416.

[179] Principal magistrates of Toulouse.

[180] Histoire veritable de tout ce qui s'est fait et passe en la ville
de Tholoze, en la mort de M. de Montmorency, 1632.

[181] Sismondi, vol. xxiii. p. 212.

[182] Siri, _Mem. Rec_. vol. vii. p. 565.

[183] Pontis, _Mem_. vol. ii. p. 37.

[184] Le Vassor, vol. vii. p. 216.

[185] Le Clerc, vol. ii. pp. 83, 84.

[186] Le Vassor, vol. vii. pp. 412, 413. Siri, _Mem. Rec_. vol. vii. p.
575. Le Clerc, vol. ii. pp. 82-84.

[187] The Abbe de St. Germain was the author of a multitude of satirical
pamphlets, powerfully written, and directed against the administration
of Richelieu.

[188] Sismondi, vol. xxiii. pp. 212, 213. Le Clerc, vol. ii. pp. 84-86.
Mezeray, vol. xi. pp. 417, 418. Le Vassor, vol. vii. pp. 421-427. Siri,
_Mem. Rec_. vol. vii. p. 578. Capefigue, vol. v. pp. 195-201.

CHAPTER X

1633

Monsieur returns to Flanders--The Queen-mother retires in displeasure to
Malines--Influence of Chanteloupe--Selfishness of Monsieur--Death of
Gustavus Adolphus--Richelieu seeks to withdraw the Queen-mother and her
son from the protection of Spain--Marie is urged to retire to
Florence--The Tuscan envoy--Two diplomatists--Mortification of the
Queen-mother--She desires to seek an asylum in England--Charles I.
hesitates to grant her request--Helpless position of Marie de
Medicis--The iron rule of Richelieu--The Cardinal-dramatist--Gaston
avows his marriage to the King--Louis enters Lorraine, and takes
Nancy--Madame escapes to the Low Countries--Her reception at the
Court of Brussels--Marie de Medicis takes up her residence at
Ghent--Serious indisposition of the Queen-mother--She solicits
the attendance of her physician Vautier, and is refused--Hypocrisy
of the Cardinal--Indignation of the dying Queen--She rejects the
terms of reconciliation offered by the King--Attachment of her
adherents--Richelieu negotiates the return of Gaston to France--The
favourite of Monsieur--Gaston refuses to annul his marriage--Alfeston is
broken on the wheel for attempting the life of the Cardinal--The
Queen-mother is accused of instigating the murder--The bodyguard
of the Cardinal-Minister is increased--Estrangement of Monsieur
and his mother--Madame endeavours to effect the dismissal of
Puylaurens--Insolence of the favourite--Heartlessness of Monsieur--Marie
solicits permission to return to France--She is commanded as a condition
to abandon her followers, and refuses--Death of the Archduchess
Isabella--Gaston negotiates, and consents to the most humiliating
concessions.

After having forwarded his manifesto to the King, Gaston d'Orleans
proceeded without further delay to the Low Countries, and once more
arrived in Brussels at the close of January 1633, where he was received
by the Spaniards (who had borne all the expenses of his campaign, whence
they had not derived the slightest advantage) with as warm a welcome as
though he had realized all their hopes. The principal nobles of the
Court and the great officers of the Infanta's household were commanded
to show towards him the same respect and deference as towards herself;
he was reinstated in the gorgeous apartments which he had formerly
occupied; and the sum of thirty thousand florins monthly was assigned
for the maintenance of his little Court.[189] One mortification,
however, awaited him on his arrival; as the Queen-mother, unable to
suppress her indignation at his abandonment of her interests, had, on
the pretext of requiring change of air, quitted Brussels on the previous
day, and retired to Malines, whither he hastened to follow her. But,
although Marie consented to receive him, and even expressed her
satisfaction on seeing him once more beyond the power of his enemies,
the wound caused by his selfishness was not yet closed; and she
peremptorily refused to accompany him back to the capital, or to change
her intention of thenceforth residing at Ghent. In vain did Monsieur
represent that he was compelled to make every concession in order to
escape the malice of the Cardinal, and to secure an opportunity of
rejoining her in Flanders; whenever the softened manner of the
Queen-mother betrayed any symptom of relenting, a word or a gesture from
Chanteloupe sufficed to render her brow once more rigid, and her
accents cold.

As the unhappy exile had formerly been ruled by Richelieu, so was she
now governed by the Oratorian, whose jealousy of Puylaurens led him to
deprecate the prospect of a reconciliation between the mother and son
which must, by uniting them in one common interest, involve himself in a
perpetual struggle with the favourite of the Prince. The monk affected
to treat the haughty _parvenu_ as an inferior; while Puylaurens, who had
refused to acknowledge the supremacy of individuals of far higher rank
than the reverend father, on his side exhibited a similar feeling; and
meanwhile Marie de Medicis and Gaston, equally weak where their
favourites were concerned, made the quarrel a personal one, and by their
constant dissensions weakened their own cause, wearied the patience of
their hosts, and enabled the Cardinal to counteract all their
projects.[190]

Unable to prevail upon the Queen to rescind her resolution, Monsieur
reluctantly returned alone to Brussels, where he was soon wholly
absorbed by pleasure and dissipation. All his past trials were
forgotten. He evinced no mortification at his defeat, or at the state of
pauperism to which it had reduced him; he had no sigh to spare for all
the generous blood that had been shed in his service; nor did he mourn
over the ruined fortunes by which his own partial impunity had been
purchased. It was enough that he was once more surrounded with splendour
and adulation; and although he applied to the Emperor and the sovereigns
of Spain and England for their assistance, he betrayed little anxiety as
to the result of his appeal.

Meanwhile the unfortunate Queen-mother, who had successively witnessed
the failure of all her hopes, was bitterly alive to the reality of her
position. She was indebted for sustenance and shelter to the enemies of
France; and even while she saw herself the object of respect and
deference, as she looked back upon her past greatness and contrasted it
with her present state of helplessness and isolation, her heart sank
within her, and she dreaded to dwell upon the future.

The death of Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, who was killed at the
battle of Lutzen at the close of the previous year, had produced a great
change in the affairs of Europe; and, fearing that the Austrian Cabinet
might profit by that event, Richelieu represented to the Council the
necessity of raising money at whatever cost, and of using every
endeavour to effect a continuance of the hostilities in Germany and
Flanders, without, however, declaring war against Austria. For this
purpose he stated that more troops must necessarily be raised, but that
the forfeited dowry of the Queen-mother and the appanage of the Duc
d'Orleans would furnish sufficient funds for their maintenance; an
expedient which was at once adopted by the Council.[191]

In the event of either war or peace, however, the Cardinal was equally
uneasy to see the mother of the King and the heir-presumptive to the
Crown in the hands of the Spaniards, as their influence might tend to
excite an insurrection on the first check experienced by the French
army; while, should a general peace be negotiated during their residence
in the Low Countries, the Emperor and the King of Spain would not fail
to stipulate such conditions for them both as he was by no means
inclined to concede; and he was therefore anxious to effect, if
possible, their voluntary departure from the Spanish territories. That
he should succeed as regarded Gaston, Richelieu had little doubt, that
weak Prince being completely subjugated by his favourites, who, as the
minister was well aware, were at all times ready to sacrifice the
interests of their master to their own; but as regarded Marie de Medicis
the case was widely different, for he could not conceal from himself
that should she entertain the most remote suspicion of his own desire
to cause her removal from her present place of refuge, she would remain
rooted to the soil, although her heart broke in the effort. Nor was he
ignorant that all her counsellors perpetually urged her never to return
to France until she could do so without incurring any obligation to
himself; and this she could only hope to effect by the assistance of the
Emperor and Philip of Spain.

One circumstance, however, seemed to lend itself to his project, and
this existed in the fact that the Queen--mother had, during the
preceding year, requested her son-in-law the King of England to furnish
her with vessels for conveying her to a Spanish port; and this request,
coupled with her departure from Brussels, led him to believe that she
was becoming weary of the Low Countries. He accordingly resolved to
ascertain whether there were any hopes of inducing her to retire for a
time to Florence; but the difficulty which presented itself was how to
renew a proposition which had been already more than once
indignantly rejected.

After considerable reflection the Cardinal at length believed that he
had discovered a sure method of effecting his object; and with this
conviction he one day sent to request the presence of M. de Gondi, the
envoy of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, when after having greatly extolled
the prudence of the Grand Duke throughout the misunderstanding between
Louis XIII and his mother, and made elaborate protestations of the
sense which that monarch entertained of his moderation and equity, he
conversed for a time on the affairs of Italy, and then, as if casually,
he reverted to the subject of the Queen-mother.

"_A-propos_;" he said, "speaking of _the poor woman_, certain persons
are endeavouring, I understand, to induce her to visit Florence. What do
you think of the project?"

"Your Eminence," replied Gondi, "is the first person by whom I have been
informed of this intention on the part of her Majesty; I never heard
that she had adopted such a resolution."

"Then I must initiate you into the mystery," pursued Richelieu. "The bad
advice of that madman Chanteloupe has been the cause of all the errors
of which she has been guilty. The King had requested the Infanta to
deliver the man up to him; a demand by which he was so incensed that he
forthwith urged the Queen to leave the Low Countries, declaring that she
would no longer be safe there, should Isabella, whose health is failing
fast, chance to die. The poor woman, listening to this interested
counsel, accordingly resolved to go to England, but Charles would not
receive her without the consent of her son. Thereupon she asked for some
vessels to convey her to Spain, to which the English monarch replied
that he would furnish her with a fleet, provided that his brother-in-law
approved of her intention, and that Philip would consent to her
remaining in his dominions. His Catholic Majesty has already given the
required pledge, but I am not yet aware of the determination of my own
sovereign. You see to what a pitiable state she is reduced; she does not
know which way to turn; and I really feel for her. I wish with all my
heart that I could help her; but so far from seeing her position in its
right light, she continues so headstrong that she feels no regret for
the past, and declares that she never shall do so."

M. de Gondi remained silent; and after pausing an instant Richelieu
resumed: "As the Queen-mother really wishes to change her place of
abode, would to God that she would select some country where the King
could prove to her the extent of his affection without endangering the
interests of the state; and where nothing might prevent me from
testifying towards her my own gratitude and respect. Charles of England
cannot well refuse the use of his ships after her request, but I cannot
bring myself to believe that she actually desires to reside in Spain.
Should she ultimately incline towards Florence, and anticipate a good
reception from the Grand Duke, do you apprehend that she would be
disappointed in her hope?"

"Monseigneur," cautiously replied the envoy, who was not without a
suspicion of the motive which urged the Cardinal to hazard this inquiry,
and who had received no instructions upon the subject, "I know nothing
of the projects of her Majesty, nor do I believe that the Grand Duke is
better informed than myself. The Court of Florence entertains such
perfect confidence in the affection of the King of France for his
mother, that it leaves all such arrangements to the good feeling of
his Majesty."

"The aspect of affairs has greatly changed within the last few months,"
observed Richelieu, "and I am of opinion that the King would be
gratified should the Grand Duke consent to receive his niece, in the
event of her desiring to pass a short time under his protection, until a
perfect reconciliation is effected between them; but you will see that
should she once set foot in England, she will never leave it again, and
will by her intrigues inevitably embroil us with that country."

Again did M. de Gondi protest his entire ignorance alike of the
movements of the exiled Queen and of the wishes of his sovereign, with a
calm pertinacity which warned the Cardinal that further persistence
would be impolitic, as it could not fail to betray his eagerness to
effect the object of which he professed only to discuss the expediency;
and, accordingly, the interview terminated without having produced the
desired result.[192]

Richelieu had, however, said enough to convince the Tuscan envoy that
should the Grand Duke succeed in persuading the Queen-mother to reside
at his Court, he would gratify both Louis and his minister; but neither
he himself nor Marie de Medicis had ever contemplated such an
arrangement. It was true, as the Cardinal had stated, that she had
applied to Charles of England for shipping, but she had done so with a
view of proceeding by Spain to join the Duc d'Orleans in Languedoc,
little imagining that his cause would so soon be ruined. Mortified to
find herself left for so long a period in a state of dependence upon
Philip and Isabella, and deprived of any other alternative, she had next
sought to secure an asylum in the adopted country of her daughter, where
her near relationship to the Queen gave her a claim to sympathy and
kindness which she was aware that she had no right to exact from
strangers; and she consequently felt that the obligation which she
should there incur would prove less irksome to support than that which
was merely based on political interests; and, which, however gracefully
conferred, could not be divested of its galling weight.

Henriette, who had always been strongly attached to her royal mother,
and who, in her brilliant exile, pined for the ties of kindred and the
renewal of old associations, welcomed the proposal with eagerness; but
Charles I., who was apprehensive that by yielding to the wishes of the
Queen, he should involve himself in a misunderstanding with the French
Court; and who, moreover, disliked and dreaded the restless and
intriguing spirit of Marie de Medicis, as much as he deprecated the
outlay which her residence in the kingdom must occasion, hesitated to
grant her request.

Such was the extremity to which the ingratitude and ambition of a single
individual, whose fortunes she had herself founded, had, in the short
space of eighteen months, reduced the once-powerful Queen-Regent of
France; whose son and sons-in-law were the most powerful sovereigns
in Europe.

Since the execution of the Duc de Montmorency all the nobility of France
had bowed the head before the power of Richelieu; the greatest and the
proudest alike felt their danger, for they had learnt the terrible truth
that neither rank, nor birth, nor personal popularity could shield them
from his resentment; and while Louis XIII hunted at Fontainebleau,
feasted at the Louvre, and attended with as much patience as he could
assume at the constant performances of the vapid and tedious dramas with
which the Cardinal-Duke, who aspired to be esteemed a poet, incessantly
taxed the forbearance of the monarch and his Court, the active and
versatile pen of the minister was at the same time spreading desolation
and death on every side.

One unfortunate noble, whose only crime had been his adhesion to the
cause of Gaston d'Orleans, was condemned to the galleys for life; while
the Duc d'Elboeuf, MM. de Puylaurens, du Coudrai-Montpensier, and de
Goulas were tried and executed in effigy; the figures by which they were
represented being clothed in costly dresses, richly decorated with lace,
and glittering with tinsel ornaments.[193]

Other individuals who had taken part in the revolt, but who were also
beyond the present power of the Cardinal, were condemned _par
contumace_, some to be quartered, and others to lose their heads. The
Chevalier de Jars, accused of having endeavoured to assist in the escape
of the Queen-mother and Monsieur to England, although no proof could be
adduced of the fact, perished upon the scaffold; Chateauneuf, whose
assiduities to the Duchesse de Chevreuse had aroused the jealousy of the
Cardinal, who had long entertained a passion for that lady, was deprived
of the seals, which were transferred to M. Seguier;[194] while Madame de
Chevreuse was banished from the Court, and the Marquis de Leuville, the
nephew of Chateauneuf, and several others of his friends were committed
to the Bastille.[195]

Meanwhile Monsieur had considered it expedient to apprise the King of
his marriage with the Princesse Marguerite, by which Louis was so
greatly incensed that he forthwith resolved to punish the bad faith of
Charles de Lorraine by proceeding to his duchy, and laying siege to
the capital.

Aware that resistance was impossible, the Prince immediately despatched
his brother the Cardinal to solicit the pardon of the King; but Louis
remained inexorable, although the unhappy Charles, who foresaw the ruin
of his entire family should the hostile army of France invade his
territories, even proposed to abdicate in favour of the Cardinal-Duke
Francis. Still Louis continued his onward march, and finally, rendered
desperate by his fears, the sovereign of Lorraine consented to deliver
up the city upon such terms as his Majesty should see fit to propose,
provided that he received no help from without during the next ten days;
and, moreover, to place his sister the Princesse Marguerite in
his hands.

These conditions having been accepted, the Cardinal de Lorraine
solicited a passport for himself and his equipage, in order that he
might leave Nancy; and his retreat involved so romantic an incident,
that it produces the effect of fiction rather than that of sober
history. The unfortunate bride of Gaston had no sooner ascertained that
she was destined to become the prisoner of the King than she resolved,
with a courage which her weak and timid husband would have been unable
to emulate, to effect her escape. In a few words she explained her
project to the Cardinal Francis, whose ambition and brotherly love were
alike interested in her success; and within an hour she had assumed the
attire of one of the pages of his household. Having covered her own hair
with a black wig, and stained her face and hands with a dark dye, she
hastened to the convent in which she had been married to Monsieur, in
order to take leave of the Abbesse de Remiremont, and created great
alarm among the nuns, who, while engaged in their devotions, suddenly
saw an armed man standing in the midst of them; but the Princess had no
sooner made herself known than they crowded about her to weep over her
trials, and to utter earnest prayers for her preservation.

On reaching the advanced guard of the French army she incurred the
greatest danger, as her person was well known to the officer in command;
but fortunately for the Princess he had retired to rest, and the
carriage which she occupied was searched by a subordinate to whom she
was a stranger. After having traversed the royal camp, the courageous
fugitive mounted on horseback, and, accompanied by two trusty
attendants, rode without once making a halt as far as Thionville, a town
which belonged to the Spaniards; but on arriving at the gates she did
not venture to enter until she had apprised the Comte de Wilthy, the
governor, of the step which she had taken; and her fatigue was so
excessive that, during the absence of her messenger, she dismounted with
considerable difficulty and flung herself down upon the grass that
fringed the ditch; a circumstance which attracted the attention of the
sentinel at the gate, who pointed her out to a comrade, exclaiming at
the same time:

"Yon is a stripling who is new to hard work, or I am mistaken."

Meanwhile the errant Princess was faint from exhaustion, and sick with
suspense; but she was soon relieved from her apprehensions by the
appearance of the Governor and his wife, by whom she was welcomed with
respect and cordiality; apartments were assigned to her in their own
residence; and under their protection she remained for several days at
Thionville, in order to recruit her strength, as well as to inform
Monsieur of her approach, and to request an escort to Brussels. Both
Gaston and the Queen-mother were overjoyed at her escape; for although
estranged by the jealousies and intrigues of those about them, Marie
fully participated in the delight of her son, as she trusted that the
presence of a daughter-in-law, who shared her enmity towards the
Cardinal, would tend to ameliorate her own position. Carriages and
attendants were immediately despatched to Thionville, while Monsieur
proceeded to Namur to meet the Princess, and to conduct her to Brussels,
where she was impatiently expected. On alighting at the palace Madame
was received with open arms by her mother-in-law, who had returned to
the capital in order to congratulate her on the happy result of her
enterprise, and was greeted by the Archduchess with equal warmth. The
Spanish Cabinet accorded an augmentation of fifteen thousand crowns
monthly to the pension of Monsieur for the maintenance of her household,
and this liberality was emulated by Isabella, who overwhelmed her with
the most costly presents.[196]

The Duchesse d'Orleans had no sooner received the compliments of the
Court of Brussels than the Queen-mother returned to Ghent, where she was
shortly afterwards attacked by so violent a fever that her life was
endangered. In this extremity Gaston fulfilled all the duties of an
affectionate and anxious son, and urged her to quit the noxious air of
the marshes and to return to the capital; but his entreaties were
powerless, Chanteloupe on his side advising her to remain in the retreat
which she had chosen. Louis XIII was soon informed of the illness of his
mother, and whether it were that he really felt a renewal of tenderness
towards her person, or that he merely deemed it expedient to keep up
appearances, it is certain that after some time he despatched two of the
physicians of his household to Flanders, with instructions to use their
utmost endeavours to overcome the malady of the Queen; while they were,
moreover, accompanied by a gentleman of the Court charged with a cold
and brief letter, and authorized not only to express the regrets common
on such occasions, but also to make proposals of reconciliation to the
royal exiles.

The Infanta, who, despite her age and infirmities, was a frequent
visitor in the sick room of her illustrious guest, and who saw with
alarm the rapid progress of the disease under which the unhappy Marie de
Medicis had laboured for upwards of forty days, encouraged by the
arrival of the French envoy, at length wrote to inform the King that his
mother, who placed the greatest confidence in the skill of her own
physician Vautier, had expressed the most earnest desire for his
attendance; and it is probable that at so extreme a crisis Louis would
not have hesitated to comply with her wishes had not Richelieu opposed
his liberation from the Bastille, asserting that Marie de Medicis had
induced Isabella to make the request for the sole purpose of once more
having about her person a man who had formerly given her the most
pernicious advice, and who encouraged her in her rebellion. All,
therefore, that the King would concede under this impression was his
permission to Vautier to prescribe in writing for the royal invalid; but
the physician, who trusted that the circumstance might tend to his
liberation, excused himself, alleging that as he had not seen the
Queen-mother for upwards of two years, he could not judge of the changes
which increased age, change of air, and moral suffering had produced
upon her system; and that consequently he dared not venture to propose
remedies which might produce a totally opposite result to that which
he intended.

But, at the same time that the Cardinal refused to gratify the wishes of
the apparently dying Queen, he was profuse in his expressions of respect
and affection towards her. "His Majesty is about to despatch you to
Ghent," he had said to the envoy when he went to receive his parting
instructions. "Assure the Queen-mother from me that although I am aware
my name is odious to her, and conscious of the whole extent of the
ill-will which she bears towards me, those circumstances do not prevent
my feeling the most profound attachment to her person, and the deepest
grief at her indisposition. Do not fail to assure her that I told you
this with tears in my eyes. God grant that I may never impute to so good
a Princess all the injury which I have suffered from her friends, nor
the calumnies which those about her incessantly propagate against me;
although it is certain that so long as she listens to these envenomed
tongues I cannot hope that she will be undeceived, nor that she will
recognize the uprightness of my intentions." [197]

It appears marvellous that a man gifted with surpassing genius, and
holding in his hand the destinies of Europe, should condescend to such
pitiful and puerile hypocrisy; but throughout the whole of the Memoirs
attributed to Richelieu himself, the reader is startled by the mass of
petty manoeuvres upon which he dilates; as though the dispersion of an
insignificant cabal, or the destruction of some obscure individual who
had become obnoxious to him, were the most important occupations of his
existence.

Not content with insulting his royal victim by words which belied the
whole tenor of his conduct, the Cardinal, before he dismissed the envoy,
seized the opportunity of adding one more affront to those of which he
had already been so lavish, by instructing the royal messenger not to
hold the slightest intercourse with any member of her household, and
even to turn his back upon them whenever they should address him; a
command which he so punctiliously obeyed that when, in the very chamber
of Marie de Medicis, one of her gentlemen offered him the usual
courtesies of welcome, he retorted by the most contemptuous silence, to
the extreme indignation of the Queen, who, in reply to the message of
Richelieu, haughtily exclaimed, "Tell the Cardinal that I prefer his
persecution to his civility."

Silenced by this unanswerable assurance, the envoy next proceeded to
deliver the despatch with which he had been entrusted by the King. "I am
consoled for my sufferings," said the unhappy mother, as she extended
her trembling and withered hand to receive it, "since I am indebted to
them for this remembrance on the part of his Majesty. I will on this
occasion be careful to return my acknowledgments by a person who will
not be displeasing to him."

Such, however, was far from her intention; as, convinced that the insult
offered to her attendants had been suggested by the Cardinal, she
selected for her messenger the same individual who had formerly
delivered to the Parliament of Paris her petition against Richelieu, in
order to convince him that should she effect her reconciliation with the
monarch on this occasion, she had no inclination to include his minister
in the amnesty. Even past experience, bitter as it was, had not yet
taught her that the contest was hopeless.

Her reply to the letter of her son ran thus:

"Monsieur mon fils, I do not doubt that had you been sooner apprised of
my illness, you would not have failed to give me proofs of your good
disposition. Those which I formerly received have so confirmed this
belief, that even my present misfortunes cannot weaken it. I am
extremely obliged by your having sent to visit me when the rumour of my
indisposition reached you. If your goodness has led you to regret that
you were not sooner made acquainted with so public a circumstance, my
affection induces me willingly to receive the intelligence which you
send me, at any time. Your envoy will inform you that he reached me on
the fortieth day of a continuous fever, which augments throughout the
night. I was anxious that he should see me out of my bed, in order that
he might assure you that the attack was not so violent, and that my
strength is not so much exhausted, as to deprive me, with God's help, of
all hope of recovery. Having been out of health for the last year, and
the fever from which I formerly suffered every third week having changed
and become continuous, the physicians apprehend that it may become more
dangerous. I am resigned to the will of God, and I shall not regret life
if I am assured of your favour before my death; and if you love me as
much as I love you, and shall always love you."

As regarded the proposals of reconciliation brought by the royal envoy,
the best-judging among the friends of the Queen-mother were of opinion
that she should accept them; but Chanteloupe earnestly opposed
the measure.

"Many of your attendants, Madame," he said coldly, "desire to see you
once more in France, even should you be shut up in the fortress of
Vincennes. They only seek to enjoy their own property in peace." The
reverend father made no mention of his own enjoyment of a pension of a
thousand livres a month, paid to him by Spain during his residence in
the Low Countries, and which must necessarily cease should Marie de
Medicis withdraw from the protection of that power.

Before the departure of the King's messenger, he informed the
Queen-mother that he was authorized by his sovereign to offer her
pecuniary aid should she require it; insinuating at the same time that,
in the event of her consenting to dismiss certain of her attendants who
were displeasing to the monarch, their misunderstanding might be at once
happily terminated.

"I am perfectly satisfied with the liberality of my son-in-law, the King
of Spain," was her brief and cold reply. "He is careful that I shall
feel no want."

The Abbe de St. Germain, on ascertaining the terms offered to his royal
protectress, earnestly urged her not to reject them. "It is not just,
Madame," he said frankly and disinterestedly, "that you should suffer
for us. When your Majesty is once more established in France, you will
find sufficient opportunities of serving us, and of enabling us to
reside either here or elsewhere. Extricate yourself, Madame, from your
painful situation, and spend the remainder of your life in your adopted
country, where you will be independent of the aid of foreigners."

Unhappily for herself, however, Marie de Medicis disregarded this
wholesome and generous advice; and although Richelieu, in order to save
appearances, from time to time repeated the proposal, she continued to
persist in an exile which could only be terminated at his pleasure.[198]

Having succeeded by this crafty policy in inducing a general impression
that the unfortunate Queen persisted from a spirit of obstinacy in
remaining out of the kingdom, when she could at any moment return on
advantageous conditions, the Cardinal next exerted himself to create a
misunderstanding between Marie de Medicis and Monsieur, for which
purpose he secretly caused it to be asserted to the Prince and
Puylaurens that the Queen-mother, anxious to make her own terms to the
exclusion of Gaston, had despatched several messengers to the French
Court with that object. Monsieur affected to discredit the report, but
Puylaurens, who was weary of an exile which thwarted his ambition,
eagerly welcomed the intelligence, and soon succeeded in inducing Gaston
to give it entire credence. Thenceforward all confidence was necessarily
at an end between the mother and the son; and the favourite,
apprehensive that should Marie de Medicis conclude a treaty with the
sovereign before his master had made his own terms, she might, in order
to advance her own interests, sacrifice those of the Prince, hastened to
despatch a trusty messenger to ascertain the conditions which Louis was
willing to accord to his brother. The reply which Puylaurens received
from the Cardinal was most encouraging; Richelieu being anxious that
Monsieur should act independently of the Queen-mother, and thus weaken
the cause of both parties, while his gratification was increased by the
arrival of a second envoy accredited by Gaston himself, who offered in
his name, not only to make every concession required of him should he be
restored to the favour of the King, but even to allow the minister to
decide upon his future place of abode; while Puylaurens, on his side,
offered to resign his claim to the hand of the Princesse de Phalsbourg,
the sister of the Duc de Lorraine, which had been pledged to him, if he
could induce his Eminence to bestow upon him that of one of his own
relatives.

In reply to the last proposition the Cardinal declared himself ready to
secure to the favourite of Monsieur, should he succeed in making his
royal patron fulfil the promises which he had volunteered, a large sum
of money, and his elevation to a dukedom; but Puylaurens demanded still
better security. He could not forget that if he still existed, it was
simply from the circumstance that the minister had been unable to
execute upon his person the violence which had been visited upon his
effigy, and he accordingly replied:

"Of what avail is a dukedom, since his Eminence is ever more ready to
cut off the head of a peer than that of a citizen?"

"If you are still distrustful," said the negotiator, "the Cardinal,
moreover, offers you an alliance with himself as you propose; and will
give you in marriage the younger daughter of his kinsman the Baron de
Pontchateau."

"That alters the case," replied the young noble, "as I am aware that his
Eminence has too much regard for his family to behead one of his
cousins." [199]

One impediment, however, presented itself to the completion of this
treaty, which proved insurmountable. Monsieur refused to consent to the
annulment of his marriage with the Princesse Marguerite; while the King,
who had just marched an army into Lorraine, and taken the town of Nancy,
on his side declined all reconciliation with his brother until he
consented to place her in his hands.

On his return from Lorraine Louis XIII halted for a time at Metz, and
during his sojourn in that city an adventurer named Alfeston was put
upon his trial, and broken on the wheel, for having attempted to
assassinate the Cardinal. The culprit had only a short time previously
arrived in Metz from Brussels, accompanied by two other individuals who
had been members of the bodyguard of the Queen-mother, while he himself
actually rode a horse belonging to her stud. As he was stretched upon
the hideous instrument of torture, he accused Chanteloupe as an
accessory in the contemplated crime; and the Jesuit, together with
several others, were cited to appear and defend themselves; while, at
the same time, the horse ridden by the principal conspirator was
restored to its royal owner, with a request from the King that she
would not in future permit such nefarious plots to be organized in her
household, as "not only was the person of the Cardinal infinitely dear
to him," but rascals of that description were capable of making other
attempts of the same nature; and, not contented with thus insulting his
unhappy and exiled mother, Louis, in order to show his anxiety for the
safety of the minister, added to the bodyguard which had already been
conceded to him an additional company of a hundred musketeers, the whole
of whom he himself selected.[200]

The constant indignities to which Marie de Medicis was subjected by
Monsieur and his haughty favourite at length crushed her bruised and
wearied spirit. Outraged in every feeling, and disappointed in every
hope, she became in her turn anxious to effect a reconciliation with the
King, even upon terms less favourable than those to which she had
hitherto aspired. Gaston seldom entered her apartments, nor was his
presence ever the harbinger of anything but discord; while Puylaurens
and Chanteloupe openly braved and defied each other, and the two little
Courts were a scene of constant broils and violence. Monsieur, moreover,
forbade his wife to see her royal mother-in-law so frequently, or to
evince towards her that degree of respect to which she was entitled both
from her exalted rank and her misfortunes. The gentle Marguerite,
however, refused to comply with a command which revolted her better
nature; and even consented, at the instigation of Marie de Medicis and
Isabella--whose dignity and virtue were alike outraged by the dissolute
excesses of the favourite--to entreat her husband to dismiss Puylaurens
from his service.

"Should you succeed, Madame," said the Queen-mother, "you will save
yourself from ruin. He is sold to the Cardinal; who, in addition to
other benefits, has promised to give him his own cousin in marriage. But
on what conditions do you imagine that he conceded this demand? Simply
that Monsieur should unreservedly comply upon all points, and
particularly on that which regards his marriage, with the will of
Richelieu; that he should place you in the hands of the King, or leave
you here, if it be not possible to convey you to France; that he should
authorize an inquiry into the legitimacy of your marriage; and, finally,
that Monsieur should abandon both myself and the King of Spain. Such are
the terms of the treaty; and were they once accepted, who would be able
to sustain your claims?"

The unfortunate Princess understood only too well the dangers of her
position, and she accordingly exerted all her influence to obtain the
dismissal of Puylaurens, but the brilliant favourite had become
necessary to the existence of his frivolous master, far more so, indeed,
than the wife who was no longer rendered irresistible by novelty; and
the only result of her entreaties was a peevish order not to listen to
any complaints against those who were attached to his person.

With a weakness worthy of his character, Gaston moreover repeated to his
favourite all that had taken place; and the fury of Puylaurens reached
so extreme a point that, in order to prove his contempt for the unhappy
Queen--about to be deprived of the support and affection of her
best-loved son, who had, like his elder brother, suffered himself to be
made the tool of an ambitious follower--he had on one occasion the
audacity to enter her presence, followed by a train of twenty-five
gentlemen, all fully armed, as though while approaching her he dreaded
assassination.

Marie de Medicis looked for an instant upon him with an expression of
scorn in her bright and steady eye beneath which his own sank; and then,
rising from her seat, she walked haughtily from the apartment. Once
arrived in her closet, however, her indignant pride gave way; and
throwing herself upon the neck of one of her attendants, she wept the
bitter tears of humiliation and despair.

Nor was this the only, or the heaviest, insult to which the widow of
Henri IV was subjected by the arrogant _protege_ of Monsieur, for
anxious to secure his own advancement, and to aggrandize himself by
means of Richelieu, since he had become convinced that his only hope of
future greatness depended on the favour of the Cardinal, Puylaurens once
more urged upon Gaston the expediency of accepting the conditions
offered to him by the King. Weary of the petty Court of Brussels, the
Prince listened with evident pleasure to the arguments advanced by his
favourite; the fair palaces of St. Germain and the Tuileries rose
before his mental vision; his faction in Languedoc existed no longer;
with his usual careless ingratitude he had already ceased to resent the
death of Montmorency; his beautiful and heroic wife retained but a
feeble hold upon his heart; and he pined for change.

Under such circumstances it was, consequently, not long ere Puylaurens
induced him to consent to a renewal of the negotiations; but, with that
inability to keep a secret by which he was distinguished throughout his
whole career, although urged to silence by his interested counsellor, it
was not long ere Monsieur declared his intention alike to his mother and
his wife, and terminated this extraordinary confidence by requesting
that Marie de Medicis would give him her opinion as to the judiciousness
of his determination.

"My opinion!" exclaimed the indignant Queen. "You should blush even to
have listened to such a proposition. Have you forgotten your birth and
your rank? What will be thought of such a treaty by the world? Simply
that it was the work of a favourite, and not the genuine reconciliation
of a Prince of the Blood Royal of France, the heir-presumptive to the
Crown, with the King his brother. Your own honour and the interests of
your wife are alike sacrificed; and should you ever be guilty of the
injustice and cowardice of taking another wife before the death of
Marguerite, who will guarantee that the children who may be born to you
by the last will be regarded as legitimate? I do not speak of what
concerns myself. When such conditions shall be offered to you as you may
accept without dishonour, even although I may not be included in the
amnesty, I shall be the first to advise you to accept them."

Gaston attempted no reply to this impassioned address, but it did not
fail to produce its effect; and on returning to his own apartments he
withdrew the consent which Puylaurens had extorted from him. The
favourite, convinced that the answer of the Queen-mother had been
dictated by Chanteloupe, hurried to her residence, insulted and menaced
the Jesuit whom he encountered in an ante-room, and forcing himself into
the chamber of Marie de Medicis, accused her in the most disrespectful
terms of endeavouring to perpetuate the dissension of the King and his
brother, in order to gratify her emnity towards Richelieu.

"Never," exclaimed the Queen-mother, quivering with indignation, "did
even my enemy the Cardinal thus fail in respect towards me! He was far
from daring to address me with such an amount of insolence as this.
Learn that should I see fit to say a single word, and to receive him
again into favour, I could overthrow all your projects. Leave the room,
young madman, or I will have you flung from the windows. It is easy to
perceive that your nature is as mean as your birth." [201]

Puylaurens retired; but thenceforward the existence of the Queen-mother
became one unbroken tissue of mortification and suffering; and so
bitterly did she feel the degradations to which she was hourly exposed,
that she at length resolved to despatch one of the gentlemen of her
household to the King, to ascertain if she could obtain the royal
permission to return to France upon such terms as she should be enabled
to concede. In the letter which she addressed to her son she touchingly
complained of the indignities to which she was subjected by Monsieur and
his favourite, and implored his Majesty to extricate her from a position
against which she was unable to contend.

In his reply Louis assured her that he much regretted to learn that the
Duc d'Orleans had been wanting in respect towards her person, but
reminded her that such could never have been the case had she followed
his own advice and that of his faithful servants; and terminated his
missive by an intimation that in the event of her placing in his power
all her evil counsellors, in order that he might punish them as they
deserved, and of her also pledging herself to love, as she ought to do,
the good servants of the Crown, he might then believe that she was no
longer so ill-disposed as she had been when she left France.

The disappointed Queen-mother at once recognized the hand of the
Cardinal in this cold and constrained despatch, which was merely a
renewal of her sentence of banishment; as Richelieu well knew that the
high heart and generous spirit of the Tuscan Princess would revolt at
the enormity of sacrificing those who had clung to her throughout her
evil fortunes, in order to secure her own impunity.

Unfortunately, alike for Marie de Medicis and Gaston d'Orleans, the
amiable Infanta, who had proved so patient as well as so munificent a
host--and who had, without murmur or reproach, seen her previously
tranquil and pious Court changed by the dissipation and cabals of her
foreign guests into a perpetual arena of strife and even bloodshed--the
Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia, whose very name was reverenced
throughout the whole of the Low Countries, expired on the 1st of
December at the age of sixty-eight, after having governed Flanders
during thirty-five years.

This event was a source of alarm as well as of sorrow to the royal
exiles, who could not anticipate an equal amount of forbearance from the
Marquis d'Ayetona,[202] by whom she was provisionally replaced in the
government; and who had long and loudly expressed his disgust at the
perpetual feuds which convulsed the circles of the Queen-mother and her
son, and declared that they had caused him more annoyance than all the
subjects of the King his master in the Low Countries.[203] In this
extremity both Marie and Monsieur became more than ever anxious to
procure their recall to France; and Gaston soon succeeded in
ascertaining the conditions upon which his pardon was to be accorded.
Letters of abolition were to be granted for his past revolt: his several
appanages were to be restored to him: the sum of seven hundred thousand
crowns were to be paid over to meet his immediate exigences: he was to
be invested with the government of Auvergne, and to have, as a
bodyguard, a troop of gendarmes and light-horse, of which the command
was to be conferred upon Puylaurens, to whom the offer of a dukedom was
renewed; and, in the event of Monsieur declining to reside at Court, he
was to be at liberty to fix his abode either in Auvergne or in
Bourbonnais, as he saw fit; while, in any and every case, he was to live
according to his own pleasure alike in Paris or the provinces.

And--in return for this indulgence--Monsieur was simply required to
abandon his brother-in-law Charles de Lorraine to the vengeance of the
King, without attempting any interference in his behalf; to detach
himself wholly and unreservedly from all his late friends and adherents
both within and without the kingdom of France; to resign all alliance
either personal or political with the Queen-mother; to be guided in
every circumstance by the counsels of the Cardinal-Minister; and to give
the most stringent securities for his future loyalty.

Such were the conditions to which the heir-presumptive to the Crown of
France ultimately consented to affix his name, although for a time he
affected to consider them as unworthy of his dignity; and meanwhile as
the year drew to a close, a mutual jealousy had grown up between the
mother and son which seconded all the views of Richelieu, whose
principal aim was to prevent the return of either to France for as long
a period as he could succeed in so doing.

FOOTNOTES:

[189] Gaston d'Orleans, _Mem_. p. 148.

[190] Le Clerc, vol. ii. pp. 86, 87. Le Vassor, vol. vii. pp. 249, 250.

[191] Mezeray, vol. xi. p. 418.

[192] Le Vassor, vol. vii. pp. 442-445. Le Clerc, vol. ii. pp. 92-94.
Mezeray, vol. xi. pp. 422, 423.

[193] _Extrait des Registres du Parlement de Bourgogne_, Annee 1633.
MSS. de la Bibliotheque Royale.

[194] Pierre Seguier, a nephew of Pierre Seguier (the president _a
mortier_ of the Parliament of Paris), born in 1588, made Keeper of the
Seals in 1633, and died in 1672. [By a clerical oversight in the first
edition this honour was conferred upon his uncle fifty-three years after
his death!]

[195] Mezeray, vol. xi. pp. 423-425.

[196] Gaston d'Orleans, _Mem_. pp. 149-152.

[197] Siri, _Mem. Rec_. vol. vii. pp. 685-687. Le Vassor, vol. vii. pp.
1-4.

[198] Le Vassor, vol. vii. pp. 6-9. Mezeray, vol. xi. pp. 428, 429. Le
Clerc, vol. ii. pp. 122, 123.

[199] Capefigue, vol. v. pp. 223, 224.

[200] Le Clerc, vol. ii. pp. 123, 124.

[201] Le Vassor, vol. vii. book xxxv. pp. 248-251.

[202] Francisco de Moncade, Marques d'Ayetona, Conde d'Osuna, was born
at Valencia in 1586; he was successively Councillor of State, Governor
of the Low Countries, and generalissimo of the Spanish armies. He
died in 1635.

[203] Sismondi, vol. xxiii. p. 240.

CHAPTER XI

1634

Increasing trials of the exiled Queen--Her property is seized on the
frontier--She determines to conciliate the Cardinal--Richelieu remains
implacable--Far-reaching ambition of the minister--Weakness of Louis
XIII--Insidious arguments of Richelieu--Marie de Medicis is again urged
to abandon her adherents--Cowardly policy of Monsieur--He signs
a treaty with Spain--The Queen-mother refuses to join in the
conspiracy--Puylaurens induces Monsieur to accept the proffered terms of
Richelieu--He escapes secretly from Brussels---Gaston pledges himself to
the King to "love the Cardinal"--Gaston again refuses to repudiate his
wife--Puylaurens obtains the hand of a relative of the minister and
becomes Duc de Puylaurens--Monsieur retires to Blois.

The early months of the year 1634 were passed by Marie de Medicis in
perpetual mortification and anxiety. The passport which she had obtained
for the free transport of such articles of necessity as she might deem
it expedient to procure from France was disregarded, and her packages
were subjected to a rigorous examination on the frontier; an insult of
which she complained bitterly to Louis, declaring that if the Cardinal
sought by such means to reduce her to a more pitiable condition than
that in which she had already found herself, and thus to bend her to his
will, the attempt would prove fruitless; as no amount of indignity
should induce her to humble herself before him.

The unhappy Princess little imagined that in a few short weeks she
should become a suppliant for his favour! Meanwhile[204] the struggle
for pre-eminence continued unabated between Puylaurens and Chanteloupe;
and the life of the former having been on one occasion attempted, the
faction of Monsieur did not hesitate to attribute the contemplated
assassination to the adherents of the Queen-mother; whence arose
continual conflicts between the two pigmy Courts, which rendered
unavailing all the efforts of the Marquis d'Ayetona to reconcile the
royal relatives. Moreover, Marie was indignant that the Marquis
constantly evinced towards her son a consideration in which he sometimes
failed towards herself; and, finding her position becoming daily more
onerous, she at length resolved to accomplish a reconciliation, not only
with the King, but even with the minister, on any terms which she could
obtain. In pursuance of this determination she gave instructions to M.
Le Rebours de Laleu, her equerry, to proceed to Paris with her
despatches, which consisted of three letters, one addressed to the
sovereign, another to the Cardinal, and the third to M. de
Bouthillier,[205] all of which severally contained earnest assurances of
her intention to comply with the will and pleasure of the King in all
things, and to obey his commands by foregoing for the future all emnity
towards Richelieu. In that which she wrote to the minister himself she
carefully eschewed every vestige of her former haughtiness, and threw
herself completely on his generosity. "Cousin"--thus ran the letter of
the once-powerful widow of Henri IV to her implacable enemy--"the Sieur
Bouthillier having assured me in your name that my sorrows have deeply
affected you, and that, regretting you should for so long a time have
deprived me of the honour of seeing the King, your greatest satisfaction
would now be to use your influence to obtain for me this happiness, I
have considered myself bound to express to you through the Sieur Laleu,
whom I despatch to the King, how agreeable your goodwill has been to me.
Place confidence in him, and believe, Cousin, that I will ever truly be,
etc. etc."

In addition to this humiliation, the heart-broken Queen at the same time
gave instructions to her messenger to declare to the King that, "having
learned that his Majesty could not be persuaded of her affection for his
own person so long as she refused to extend it to the Cardinal, he was
empowered to assure his Majesty that the Queen-mother, from
consideration for the King her son, would thenceforward bestow her
regard upon his minister, and dismiss all resentment for the past."

Both the verbal and written declarations addressed to Louis on this
occasion were, as will at once be evident, a mere matter of form, and
observance of the necessary etiquette. It was not the monarch of France
whom Marie de Medicis sought to conciliate, but the Cardinal-Duke, who,
as she was conscious, held her fate in his hands. It was before him,
consequently, that she bowed down; it was to his sovereign pleasure that
she thus humbly deferred; for she felt that the long-enduring struggle
which she had hitherto sustained against him was at once impotent and
hopeless. Alas! she had, as she was fated ere long to experience, as
little to anticipate from the abject concession which she now made,
bitter as were the tears that it had cost her. The most annoying
impediments were thrown in the way of her messenger when he solicited an
audience of the sovereign, nor was he slow in arriving at the conviction
that his mission would prove abortive. Nevertheless, as the command of
Marie de Medicis had been that he should also deliver the letter to
Richelieu in person, and, as he had already done in the case of the
King, add to its written assurances his own corroborative declarations
in her name, and even communicate to him the offer of Chanteloupe to
retire to a monastery for the remainder of his life in the event of his
exclusion from the treaty, he was bound to pursue his task to its
termination, hopeless as it might be.[206]

When the envoy of the Queen-mother had delivered his despatches, and
fulfilled the duty with which he had been entrusted, the embarrassment
of the Cardinal became extreme. That the haughty Marie de Medicis should
ever have compelled herself to such humiliation was an event so totally
unexpected on his part that he had made no arrangements to meet it; and
it appeared impossible even to him that, under the circumstances, the
King could venture to refuse her immediate return to France. The crisis
was a formidable one to Richelieu, who, judging both his injured
benefactress and himself from the past, placed no faith in her
professions of forgiveness; for, on his side, he felt that he should
resent even to his dying hour much that had passed before she fled the
kingdom, as well as the libels against him which she had sanctioned
during her residence in Flanders. He had, moreover, as he asserted, on
several occasions received information that Chanteloupe meditated some
design upon his life; and that the Jesuit had stated in writing that he
could never induce the Queen-mother to consent to separate herself from
him, although he had entreated of her to leave him in the Low Countries
when she returned to France.[207] Despicable, indeed, were such alleged
terrors from the lips of the Cardinal-Duc de Richelieu--the first
minister of one of the first sovereigns of Europe. What had he to fear
from a powerless and impoverished Princess, whose misfortunes had
already endured a sufficient time to outweary her foreign protectors; to
subdue the hopes, and to exhaust the energies of her former adherents;
and to reduce her to an insignificance of which, as her present measures
sufficiently evinced, she had herself become despairingly conscious?
Even had Louis XIII at this moment been possessed of sufficient right
feeling and moral energy to remember that it was the dignity of a mother
which he had so long sacrificed to the ambition of a minister--that it
was the widow of the great monarch who had bequeathed to him a crown
whom he ruthlesssly persecuted in order to further the fortunes of an
ambitious ingrate--all these trivial hindrances might have been thrust
aside at once; but the egotistical and timid temperament of the French
King deadened the finer impulses of honour and of nature; and he still
suffered himself to be governed, where he should have asserted his
highest and his holiest prerogative.

It is impossible to contemplate without astonishment so extraordinary an
anomaly as that which was presented by the King, the Queen-mother, and
the Cardinal de Richelieu at this particular period. An obscure priest,
elevated by the favour of a powerful Princess to the highest offices in
the realm, after having reduced his benefactress to the necessity of
humbling herself before him, and so unreservedly acknowledging his
supremacy as to ask, as the only condition of his forgiveness, that he
would do her the favour to believe in the sincerity of her
professions.--The widow of Henry the Great, the mother of the King of
France, and of the Queens of Spain and England, in danger of wearing out
her age in exile, because Armand Jean du Plessis, the younger son of a
petty noble of Poitou, who once considered himself the most fortunate of
mortals in obtaining the bishopric of Lucon, feared that his
unprecedented power might be shaken should his first friend and
patroness be once more united to her son, and restored to the privileges
of her rank.--And, finally, a sovereign, who, while in his better
moments he felt all the enormity of his conduct towards the author of
his being, now fast sinking under the combined weight of years and
suffering, was yet deficient in the energy necessary to do justice alike
to her and to himself.

Such, however, was the actual position of the several individuals; and
the fate of Marie de Medicis was decided.

A desire of repose, consequent upon his failing health, self-gratulation
at his triumph over an inimical and powerful faction, and a desire to
exculpate himself from the charge of ingratitude, would have led the
Cardinal to accede to a reconciliation with his long-estranged
benefactress; but he soon silenced these natural impulses to dwell only
upon the dangers of her reappearance in France, which could not, as he
believed, fail to circumscribe his own absolute power--a power to which
he had laboriously attained not more by genius than by crime--which had
been cemented by blood, and heralded by groans. Nor was this the only
consideration by which Richelieu was swayed when he resolved that the
Queen-mother should never again, so long as he had life, set foot upon
the soil of France. His high-soaring ambition had, within the last few
weeks, grasped at a greatness to which even she had not yet attained.
For a time, as is asserted by contemporary historians, he indulged
visions of royalty in his own person, and had in imagination already
fitted the crown of one of the first nations in Europe to his own brow;
but the dream had been brief, and he had latterly resolved to transfer
to one of his relatives the ermined purple in which he was not permitted
to enfold himself. That relative was his niece and favourite, Madame de
Comballet, whose hand he had offered to the Cardinal-Duc Francois de
Lorraine, when that Prince succeeded to the sovereignty of the duchy on
the abdication of his unfortunate brother Charles; but to avoid this
alliance the new Duke had contracted a secret marriage with his cousin
the Princesse Claude; a disappointment which the minister of Louis XIII
was desirous of repairing by causing the dissolution of the marriage of
Gaston d'Orleans with Marguerite de Lorraine, and making Monsieur's
union with his own beautiful and unprincipled niece the condition of
his restoration to favour.

Aware that the Queen-mother would resent such an indignity even to the
death, Richelieu was consequently resolved to put at once a stop to a
negotiation of which the result could not be otherwise than fatal to his
project, should the King in some moment of piety and contrition suffer
himself to remember that it was a mother as well as a Queen who appealed
to his indulgence; and who, however she might have erred, had bitterly
expiated her faults. Thus then, the Cardinal no sooner saw the agitation
of Louis on reading the letter of the exiled Princess, and marked the
flashing of his eyes as he became aware that she promised, as he had
required of her, to restore the Cardinal to her affection, than the
latter hastened to remind him that he must not overlook the fact that he
was a sovereign as well as a son; and that the safety of the state
required his attention no less than the gratification of his
natural feelings.

This was a point upon which Richelieu knew his royal master to be
peculiarly susceptible; for the more thoroughly the weak monarch
suffered himself to be stripped of his actual authority, the more
anxiety did he evince to retain its semblance, and the argument thus
advanced instantly sufficed, as the minister had anticipated, to change
the whole current of his feelings. It was, moreover, easy to convince
Louis that the professions of Marie de Medicis were hollow and unmeaning
words so long as she refused to deliver up to his Majesty the obnoxious
members of her household; for, in truth, as the Cardinal did not fail to
remark, had not Monsieur abandoned his adherents when required to do so
as a pledge of his sincerity? And as he asked the insidious question,
the distrustful Louis, trembling for his tranquillity, forgot, or did
not care to remember, that the egotism and cowardice of his brother in
thus building up his own fortunes on the ruin of those who had confided
in him, had deeply wounded the dignity of the Queen-mother.

The result of the conference between the King and his minister was an
order to the envoy of Marie de Medicis to repair to the residence of the
Cardinal at Ruel, where he was informed that he would have an audience,
at which both Louis XIII and Richelieu would personally deliver to him
their despatches for his royal mistress. On his arrival at the chateau,
however, he was surprised to find the Cardinal alone, and to learn that
his Majesty was not expected. To counteract this disappointment, De
Laleu was received with such extraordinary distinction that he could not
avoid expressing his astonishment at the honours which were lavished
upon him, when Richelieu, with one of those bland smiles which were ever
at his command, declared that the respect due to the illustrious
Princess whom he served demanded still greater demonstrations on his
part had it been in his power to afford them on such an occasion. He
then proceeded to inform the envoy that the Queen-mother could never be
otherwise than welcome, whenever she might see fit to return to France,
but that, in order to be convinced that she would never again suffer
herself to be misled by those who had so long induced her to oppose his
wishes, the King desired that she would previously deliver up to him the
Jesuit Chanteloupe, the Abbe de St. Germain, and the Vicomte de
Fabbroni,[208] as his Majesty could not place any confidence in the
stability of her affection so long as those individuals were still
alive. On his own part, the Cardinal declared his extreme gratification
at the proof afforded by the letter of the Queen-mother to himself that
his enemies had been unable to undermine her regard for him, and
earnestly urged her to comply with the pleasure of the King on the
subject of her above-named servants, by which means she could not fail
to convince every one that she had disapproved of their disloyalty and
evil designs.

"Nor can I forbear reminding her Majesty," he concluded, "with the same
frankness as I formerly used towards her, that, after what has passed,
it would be impossible for the King not to feel great distrust, which it
will be expedient to exert all her energies to overcome, in order to
build up the desired reconciliation on a solid foundation. This once
effected, she will soon receive sufficient evidence that she possesses
one of the most affectionate sons on earth, and she will become aware
of the sincere attachment of one of her servants, although he is unable
under the present circumstances to urge her cause more zealously than he
has already done without incurring the serious displeasure of his
sovereign. The difficulties which I have now explained, however, are
mere clouds which her Majesty can readily disperse, and the King will
further declare to you to-morrow at St. Germain-en-Laye, where you will
be admitted to an audience, whatever he may deem it expedient to
communicate to his august mother."

On the following day the equerry of Marie de Medicis accordingly
proceeded to the Palace of St. Germain, where he found Louis with a brow
so moody, and an eye so stern, that he was at no loss to discover the
utter futility of all hope of success. The promised communication proved
indeed to be a mere repetition of what had already been stated by the
Cardinal; but, contrary to custom (his difficulty of articulation
rendering the King unwilling on ordinary occasions to indulge in much
speaking, diffuse as he was on paper), he enlarged at greater length,
and with infinitely more violence than Richelieu had done, upon the
misdemeanours of the three individuals whom he claimed at the hands of
the Queen-mother, as well as on the necessity of her prompt obedience,
which alone could, as he declared, tend to convince him that she had
been guiltless of all participation in their crimes.

As the mission of the envoy was accomplished, he commenced his
preparations for leaving France; but before they were completed he
received fresh despatches from Marie de Medicis, in which she confirmed
her former promises both to her son and his minister, in terms still
more submissive than those of her previous letters, and requested a
passport for Suffren, her confessor, in order that he might plead
her cause.

Richelieu was, however, too well aware of the timid and scrupulous
nature of the King's conscience, and of the eagerness with which the
able Jesuit would avail himself of a similar knowledge, to suffer him to
approach the person of Louis; and he consequently replied that "it would
be useless for the Queen-mother to send her confessor, or any other
individual, to the French Court, unless they brought with them her
consent to the condition upon which his Majesty had insisted; as the
King had come to an irrevocable determination never to yield upon that
point, and to refuse to listen to any other envoy whom she might
despatch to him, until she had afforded by her obedience a proof of
submission which was indispensable alike to her own reputation, the
tranquillity of the royal family, and the welfare of the kingdom."

While awaiting the reappearance of De Laleu, all the household of Marie
de Medicis, with the exception of Chanteloupe and one or two others,
began to anticipate a speedy return to France. The concessions which she
had made were indeed so important and so unforeseen, that it seemed idle
to apprehend any further opposition on the part either of the King
himself, or of his still more obdurate minister. Great, therefore, was
their dismay when they discovered that their unhappy mistress had
sacrificed her pride in vain, and that she still remained the victim of
her arch-enemy the Cardinal. But among the murmurs by which she was
surrounded not one proceeded from the lips of the persecuted exile
herself. Never had she so nobly asserted herself as on this occasion.
Her resignation was dignified and tearless. In a few earnest words she
declared her determination never to abandon those who had clung to her
in her reverses; and, as a pledge of her sincerity, she appointed the
Abbe de St. Germain to the long-vacant office of her almoner.[209]

From Monsieur she experienced no sympathy; while Puylaurens openly
expressed his gratification at a failure which could but tend to render
the negotiations then pending between the Prince his master and the King
more favourable to the former. One serious impediment presented itself,
however, in the fact that Gaston had, at the entreaty of the Princesse
de Phalsbourg (in order to counteract the attempt of Richelieu, who
sought to contest its legitimacy), consented to celebrate his marriage a
second time, in the presence of the Duc d'Elboeuf, and all the principal
officers of his household. He had also solicited the Queen-mother to
confirm the approval which she had given to the alliance when it had
been originally celebrated at Nancy, and to affix her seal to the
written contract; but Marie de Medicis, who was aware that the King
would deeply resent this open and formal defiance, declined to comply
with his request, having, as she assured him, resolved to abide by the
pleasure of the sovereign in all things, and to avoid every cause
of offence.

As the Prince still continued to urge her upon the subject, she said
coldly, "You persist in vain. You have evinced so little regard for me,
and you reject with so much obstinacy the good advice which I give you,
that I have at length determined never again to interfere in your
affairs. My decision is formed, and henceforward I shall implicitly obey
the will of the King."

This circumstance was immediately reported to Richelieu, who, delighted
to maintain the coldness which had grown up between the mother and son,
hastened to insinuate to Marie de Medicis that Louis had expressed his
gratification at her refusal, and to assure her that should she suffer
the Prince to extort her consent to such an act of wilful revolt against
the royal command she would inevitably ruin her own cause.

Having publicly ratified his marriage by this second solemnization,
Monsieur next proceeded to have it confirmed and approved by the doctors
of the Faculty of Louvain; to write to the Sovereign-Pontiff, declaring
that the alliance which he had formed was valid; and to entreat of his
Holiness to disregard all assurances to the contrary, from whatever
quarter they might proceed.

In order to give additional weight to these declarations, Gaston sent
them by an express to the Papal Court; but his messenger, having been
arrested on the frontier, was conveyed to Paris, and committed to the
Bastille; upon which a second envoy was despatched, who succeeded in
accomplishing his mission.[210] This obstacle to the coveted
establishment of his niece enraged the almost omnipotent minister, while
Gaston, in his turn, encouraged by the representations of his favourite,
communicated to the Marquis d'Ayetona the conditions of the treaty which
had been proposed to him, and declared that he would enter into no
engagement without the sanction of the Spanish sovereign. The past
career of Monsieur had by no means tended to induce an unreserved
confidence in those whom he affected to regard, and the able Governor
accordingly replied, with an equal degree of sincerity, that he strongly
advised the Prince to terminate a struggle which could only tend to
distract the kingdom over which he would, in all probability, soon be
called upon to rule; but at the same time to insist upon the royal
recognition of his marriage, as well as upon holding a fortified town as
a place of refuge, should he thereafter require such protection. He,
moreover, pointed out Chalon-sur-Saone as an eligible stronghold; and
having thus indicated conditions which he was well aware would never be
conceded, the Marquis flattered himself that he had, for a time at
least, rendered a reconciliation between the royal brothers
impracticable.[211]

He was greatly encouraged in this belief when Monsieur, who affected to
regard his return to France as a mere chimera, subsequently consented to
sign a treaty with Spain, by which he pledged himself not to enter into
any agreement with Louis XIII, be the conditions what they might; and,
in the event of a war between the two nations, to attach himself to the
cause of Philip, who was to place under his orders an army of fifteen
thousand men.[212]

This treaty was signed by the Duc d'Orleans and the Marquis d'Ayetona,
and countersigned by the Duque de Lerma and Puylaurens; and the
Spaniards had no sooner succeeded in obtaining it, than both the Marquis
and the Prince of Savoy, who had recently entered the Spanish service,
urged the Queen-mother to join the faction. Marie, however, rejected the
proposition without the hesitation of a moment, declaring that she could
not permit herself to form any alliance so prejudicial to the interests
of the King her son; an act of prudence and good feeling on which she
had soon additional cause to congratulate herself, as the Marquis
d'Ayetona, immediately on its completion, forwarded the treaty to
Madrid, where it was ratified and returned without delay; but the vessel
by which it was sent having been driven on shore near Calais, the
despatches fell into the hands of the French authorities, by whom they
were forwarded to the minister, whose alarm on discovering the nature of
their contents determined him to lose no time in effecting the recall of
the false and faction-loving Prince.

A second attempt which was made upon the life of Puylaurens at this
precise period admirably seconded his views, as the favourite, who
persisted in attributing the act to the friends of the Queen-mother,
declared that he would no longer remain at Brussels, where his safety
was constantly compromised; and Gaston, who was equally unwilling to
consent to a separation, accordingly resolved to waive the conditions
upon which he had previously insisted--namely, the recognition of his
marriage, and the possession of a fortified place--and to submit to the
degrading terms which had been offered by Richelieu.

On this occasion, however, Monsieur was careful not to seek advice
either from his mother or his wife. For once he had self-control enough
to keep his secret, although the constant passage of the couriers
between the two Courts of Paris and Brussels did not fail to alarm the
Spaniards; but as the anxiety of the Cardinal to secure the person of
the Prince had induced him to insist that the prescribed conditions
should be accepted within a fortnight, and that Gaston must return to
France within three weeks, little time was afforded to Ayetona for
elucidating the apparent mystery; and on the 1st of October the treaty
of reconciliation was signed by the King at Ecouen.

[Illustration: GEORGE VILLIERS 1ST DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM.]

It would appear, moreover, that the Prince and his favourite were as
little desirous of delay as the Cardinal himself, for on the 8th of the
same month, profiting by the temporary absence of the Marquis, Monsieur,
pretexting a fox-hunt, left Brussels early in the morning, accompanied
only by a few confidential friends; and so soon as they were fairly
beyond the city, they set spurs to their horses, and never drew bridle
until after sunset, when they reached La Capelle, the frontier town of
France, not having taken the slightest refreshment throughout the
day.[213] For some time previous to his flight Gaston had estranged
himself not only from the Queen-mother, but also from Madame; and their
astonishment was not unmingled with indignation when they became aware
that he had thus heartlessly abandoned both in order to secure his own
safety. A hurried and brief letter in which he solicited the protection
of Marie de Medicis for his ill-requited wife was the only proof which
he vouchsafed of his continued interest in their welfare; and this
despatched, he pursued his rapid journey to St. Germain-en-Laye, having
previously apprised the King of his approach to the capital.

Louis was at table when the arrival of his brother was announced, but he
instantly rose, and hastened to meet him at the door of the palace.

When he alighted and recognized the King, Gaston bowed low, but did not
attempt to bend his knee. "Sir," he said reverently, "I know not if it
be joy or fear which renders me speechless, but I have at least words
enough left to solicit your pardon for the past."

"Brother," replied the King, "we will not speak of the past. God has
given us the happiness of meeting once more, and the moment is a joyful
one to me."

The two Princes then embraced each other with every appearance of
sincerity and goodwill, after which Louis led Monsieur to his private
closet, where they were shortly joined by the Cardinal.

As the latter was announced Louis XIII exclaimed earnestly: "Brother, I
entreat of you to love M. le Cardinal."

"I will love him," was the reply of the Prince, "as I love myself, and I
will follow his advice in all things."

Richelieu fell on his knees, and kissed the hands of Monsieur.

Gaston d'Orleans was, for the moment, gained.[214]

The first few days of this royal reunion were entirely devoted to
festivity, after which the minister endeavoured to induce the Prince to
consent to the annulment of his marriage with the Princesse de Lorraine;
but upon this point Gaston evinced a firmness which astonished all those
who were able to appreciate the recklessness and instability of his
general character, and, finding himself pressed beyond his power of
endurance, he retired, accompanied by Puylaurens, to Blois, whence he
wrote to remonstrate against the delay which had taken place in the
fulfilment of the promises made to his favourite. Uneasy lest the
restless spirit of the Prince should induce him once more to revolt if
his claims remained disregarded, Richelieu caused him to be informed
that M. de Puylaurens was awaited in Paris in order that his marriage
might be concluded with the younger daughter of the Baron de
Pontchateau, on the same day that the Duc de la Valette was to espouse
the elder; while the Comte de Guiche, son of the Comte de Grammont, was
also to give his hand to Mademoiselle du Plessis-Chivray, another
relative of the Cardinal-Minister. This intelligence caused the greatest
satisfaction to Monsieur, who forthwith proceeded to the capital with
Puylaurens; and on the 19th of November both the Prince and his
favourite were magnificently entertained at Ruel, whence they
subsequently departed for St. Germain, in order to sign the contract in
the presence of the King.

On the 26th of the same month the triple ceremony of betrothal took
place at the Louvre. A full and unreserved pardon was publicly declared
in favour of all the adherents of Monsieur, and two days subsequently
the several marriages were celebrated with great pomp at the Arsenal.
The lordship of Aiguillon, which had been purchased from the Princesse
Marie de Gonzaga for six hundred thousand livres, was erected into a
duchy-peerage under the name of Puylaurens, upon whom it was conferred,
and who took his seat in the Parliament on the 7th of December as Duc de
Puylaurens; after which Gaston once more returned to Blois, in order to
avoid the persevering persecutions of the minister on the subject of
his marriage.

FOOTNOTES:

[204] Le Clerc, vol. ii. pp. 143, 144.

[205] Leon Bouthillier, Comte de Chavigny, the son of Claude
Bouthillier, Superintendent of Finance, was in 1634 Secretary of State.
Louis XIII, in his will, appointed him Minister of State, and Member of
the Council of Regency, but he was some time afterwards dismissed from
office, together with his father. Leon Bouthillier died in 1652.

[206] Le Clerc, vol. ii. pp. 159, 160.

[207] Siri, _Mem. Rec_. vol. vii. p. 761.

[208] Luc, Vicomte de Fabbroni, was a celebrated astrologer, who
attached himself to the fortunes of Marie de Medicis, to whom he had, on
several occasions, predicted the early death of Louis XIII, the
accession of Gaston d'Orleans, and her own restoration to regal power.

[209] Le Clerc, vol. ii. pp. 158-163. Siri, _Mem. Rec_. vol. vii. pp.
763, 764. Le Vassor, vol. vii. p. 360.

[210] Gaston d'Orleans, _Mem_. pp. 155, 156.

[211] Siri, _Mem. Rec_. vol. vii. p. 756.

[212] Capefigue, vol. v. p. 216. Sismondi, vol. xxiii. p. 241. Le Clerc,
vol. ii. pp. 166, 167. Mezeray, vol. xi. p. 443.

[213] Siri, _Mem. Rec_. vol. viii. pp. 101, 102. Gaston d'Orleans,
_Mem_. p. 169. Le Vassor, vol. viii. p. 307.

[214] Capefigue, vol. v. pp. 228, 229.

CHAPTER XII

1635-38

Richelieu resolves to accomplish the disgrace of Puylaurens--Gaston
proceeds to Paris during the Carnival, and his favourite is arrested in
the Louvre--He is conveyed to Vincennes, where he dies--The Queen-mother
and Madame take up their abode at Antwerp--Marie de Medicis solicits the
protection of the Pope--Her letter is coldly received--She is accused by
Richelieu of favouring the Spanish cause--She endeavours to dissuade
Louis XIII from a war with Spain, and her arguments are haughtily
repulsed--Her envoy is ordered to quit the capital--The Queen-mother
once more appeals to the Sovereign-Pontiff, who declines to excite
against himself the enmity of the Cardinal-Minister--Louis XIII pursues
the war with Spain--Monsieur and the Comte de Soissons enter into a

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