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

Part 6 out of 6

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conspiracy to assassinate Richelieu--The Queen-mother joins the
faction--The plot is betrayed---Gaston returns to his allegiance--Marie
de Medicis induces the Comte de Soissons to enter into a treaty with
Spain--The intrigue is discovered by the Cardinal--The Queen-mother once
more solicits an asylum in England--Charles I accedes to her request,
and endeavours to effect her reconciliation with the French
King--Richelieu determines Louis to reply by a refusal--Monsieur
abandons his wife, who becomes dependent for her support upon the
Spanish Government--Insignificance of Gaston--The Duchess of Savoy
endeavours to effect the recall of her royal mother to France--The three
Churchmen--Pregnancy of Anne of Austria--Renewed hopes of the
Queen-mother--She is again urged to reside in Tuscany--She proceeds to
Holland, and is magnificently received--The Prince of Orange intercedes
in her behalf with the French King--Richelieu reiterates his wish that
she should retire to Florence--The Dutch request her to leave the
country--Marie de Medicis embarks for England--She is received at
Gravesend by Charles I--Takes up her abode in St. James's
Palace--Meeting between the two Queens--Precarious position of the
English King--The Court of the Queen-mother--The French Ambassador is
instructed to abstain from all intercourse with the royal exile--A last
appeal--Obduracy of the Cardinal--Richelieu, his sovereign, and his
benefactress.

Richelieu, however, was far from intending that the Duc d'Orleans should
remain unmolested in his retreat. Puylaurens was the first individual
who had dared to dictate his own terms, and to enforce their observance;
and although his Eminence had a great affection for his niece, he was by
no means inclined to pardon the arrogance of her husband. An opportunity
of revenge soon presented itself. The attractions of the Carnival proved
too great for the prudence of Gaston, who accordingly proceeded to the
capital, in order to share in its delights; and when, on the 14th of
February 1635, he reached the Louvre, where he was expected to attend
the rehearsal of a ballet, his favourite, by whom he was accompanied,
was arrested in the royal closet by the captain of the guard, and
conveyed to Vincennes. This act of severity was as unexpected at the
moment as it remained unexplained in the sequel. Suffice it that
Monsieur did not permit the disgrace of his chosen and trusted friend to
interfere with his own amusement and gratification at so exciting a
season, although he could not fail to feel that, once in the grasp of
the Cardinal, the unhappy Puylaurens was doomed.

The result proved the truth of this apprehension; nobler and prouder
lives than that of the spoiled favourite of Gaston had been sacrificed
to the enmity of Richelieu. The tears and supplications of the
heart-broken bride were disregarded; and four months after his arrest
Puylaurens expired in his prison of, as it was asserted, typhus
fever--the same disease to which, by an extraordinary coincidence, two
former enemies of the Cardinal, the Marechal d'Ornano and the
Grand-Prieur de Vendome, had both fallen victims when confined at
Vincennes.[215]

During this time the unhappy Queen-mother, who found herself abandoned
on every side, had retired to Antwerp with the Princesse Marguerite, in
order to escape the mortifications to which she was constantly subjected
by the increasing coldness of her Spanish allies; and thence she wrote
earnestly to the Sovereign-Pontiff entreating his interference to effect
her reconciliation with the King, and begging him to exert his influence
to avert the war with Spain which the Cardinal was labouring to provoke.
The answer which she received to this despatch was cold and
discouraging, but she still persevered; and in a second letter upon the
same subjects she apprised his Holiness that she had appointed the Abbe
de Fabbroni (one of her almoners) her resident at the Court of Rome; and
had despatched another gentleman of her household to the Emperor of
Germany to enforce a similar request. She, moreover, wrote to inform
Mazarin, who was at that period nuncio-extraordinary in France, that she
had addressed her son-in-law Philip of Spain for the like purpose, and
requested him to deliver into the hands of Louis XIII a despatch by
which his own was accompanied. Her selection of an agent on this
occasion was, however, an unfortunate one, as Mazarin was devoted to the
interests of the Cardinal-Minister, to whom he immediately transferred
the packet, when the first impulse of Richelieu was to suppress it; but
having ascertained that the Queen-mother had caused several copies to be
made, and that she could not ultimately fail to secure its transmission,
he endeavoured to weaken the effect of her remonstrances by accusing her
of an attempt to corrupt the loyalty of the Duc de Rohan, and to induce
him to adopt the interests of Spain.

This accusation sufficed to render Louis insensible alike to the
entreaties and the arguments of his mother; and when Mazarin, in order
to maintain appearances, requested a reply to the letter with which he
had been entrusted, the King declined to furnish one, asserting that
should he concede any answer to so seditious, so Spanish, and so
hypocritical a missive, while the Queen was engaged in endeavouring to
alienate one of his great nobles, he should be compelled to represent to
her the crime of which she was guilty towards the state; and that the
affectation with which she had dwelt upon the desire of the late King to
maintain a good understanding with Spain was merely an expedient for
vilifying his own government, indulging her hatred of the Cardinal, and
seeking to create a rebellion among his subjects. He added, moreover,
that when the Queen should see fit to act as became his mother, he would
honour her as such; and that it was in order not to fail in his respect
towards her that he forbore to reply to her communication, although the
Nuncio was at liberty to do so in his name should he consider it
expedient.[216]

Nor was this the only mortification to which Marie de Medicis was
subjected by her attempt to preserve the peace of Europe; for Richelieu,
irritated by her interference, no sooner became aware that she had
despatched the Abbe de Fabbroni to Rome, than he instructed the French
Ambassador at that Court to complain to his Holiness of so unprecedented
an innovation; and to remind him that the Queen-mother was not a
sovereign, but a subject, and consequently did not possess the privilege
of appointing a resident at any foreign Court; but must, on every
occasion when treating with his Holiness, avail herself of the services
of the accredited envoy of the King her son.

To this expostulation, however, Urban replied that the circumstance was
not without precedent, as bishops had agents at the Papal Court; but,
notwithstanding the apparent firmness with which he withstood the
arguments of the Cardinal, it is asserted that he privately intimated
to M. de Fabbroni the expediency of his immediate departure; a
suggestion which was obeyed upon the instant.[217]

The indignation of Marie de Medicis at this new insult was unbounded.
Again she addressed the Sovereign-Pontiff, and inveighed bitterly on the
persecution of which she was the victim; but beyond the mere expression
of his sympathy the Pope declined all interference between herself and
the minister, whose gigantic power rendered his enmity formidable even
to the head of the Church. Once more the widow of one of the most
vaunted sovereigns of France was compelled to bow in silence to the
enmity of an individual whom she had herself elevated to influence and
dignity; and while France was engaged in a war which not only riveted
the attention but also involved the interests of the whole of Europe,
history is silent as to her sufferings. All that can be gathered
concerning her is the fact that the Spaniards, resenting the reverses to
which they were subjected by the armies of Louis XIII, became less than
ever inclined to sympathize in her sufferings when they discovered her
utter helplessness; nor was it until the Duc d'Orleans and the Comte de
Soissons entered into a conspiracy (in 1636) to overthrow the Cardinal,
that she was once more involved in public affairs.

Meanwhile the piety of the Queen-mother had degenerated into
superstition; she had applied to the Pope to authorize the canonization
of an obscure nun of Antwerp; and, in accordance with the directions of
Suffren her confessor, and Chanteloupe her confidant, she had abandoned
herself to the most rigorous observances of her faith. But ambition was
"scotched, not killed," in the soul of Marie de Medicis; and she no
sooner saw the Princes in open rebellion against the power of Richelieu
than her hopes once more revived, and she made instant preparations to
join their faction. The design was, however, betrayed, and thus rendered
abortive; upon which Gaston, according to his wont, soon submitted to
the terms dictated by the minister, and returned to his allegiance,
abandoning M. de Soissons, who proved less complying, to the displeasure
of the King; when (in 1637) the Queen-mother, whose hopes had been
nearly extinguished by the defeat of the Spaniards at Corbie, and their
retreat beyond the frontiers of Picardy, wrote to the Count, tendering
to him the most advantageous offers, both from the Spanish monarch and
Prince Thomas of Savoy, and offering personally to enter into the
treaty. This proposition was eagerly accepted by M. de Soissons, and
reciprocal promises of assistance and good faith were exchanged; while
the Cardinal Infant, on his side, made a solemn compact with the exiled
Queen that the Catholic King should conclude neither peace nor truce
with France until Marie de Medicis and the Comte de Soissons were
re-established in their rights; that the Queen-mother should reject all
conditions of reconciliation until after the death or disgrace of
Richelieu; that, should either one or the other event occur before the
existing dissension between France and the House of Austria was
adjusted, the Queen-mother, the Comte de Soissons, and all their French
adherents should remain neutral during the space of four months, which
were to be employed by all parties in endeavours to secure a general
peace; that, in the event of its not being concluded at the expiration
of that period, Marie de Medicis and Soissons should be free to effect
their reconciliation with the French King, without incurring the blame
of forfeiting their faith to Philip of Spain; that the last-named
monarch should furnish two hundred and fifty thousand livres in ready
money, and an equal sum a month later in property equivalent to specie;
and that if the Comte de Soissons were compelled to retire from France,
the King of Spain should afford him his protection, and furnish him with
sufficient means to live according to his birth and rank.

A treaty of this nature, so formidable in its conception, and so
threatening in its results, could not long remain a secret to the
Cardinal-Minister; and accordingly he did not fail to be apprised of the
intrigue before it had time to produce its effect, and resolved to
conciliate the Comte de Soissons, even were it only for the present
moment. Of Marie de Medicis he had long ceased to feel any apprehension,
and he consequently made no effort to include her in the amnesty; a
demonstration of contempt which so deeply wounded the exiled Princess
that she resolved to despatch a messenger to the Court of London to
solicit the interposition of Charles I. and Henriette in her behalf; but
despite all her disappointments the Queen-mother still sought to obtain
conditions which past experience should have sufficed to prove that
Richelieu never would accord.

The English monarch had, indeed, yielded to the entreaties of a wife to
whom he was at that period devotedly attached, and had consented to
exert all his influence in favour of the unhappy Princess, who now saw
herself abandoned by both her sons; but the state of his own kingdom was
too unsettled to permit of his enforcing terms which he consequently
perceived to be hopeless. Nevertheless he acceded to her request, and
forwarded to the Court of France the document which was delivered to him
by her envoy, but it produced no effect; and while every other
state-criminal was reinstated in the favour of the King, on tendering
the required submission, and conforming to the stipulated conditions,
the Queen-mother found herself excluded from all hope of recall and all
prospect of reconciliation.

Richelieu was aware that necessity alone had induced her to pronounce
his pardon, and that her wrongs were too great ever to be forgotten. No
wonder, therefore, that he shrank from a struggle which, should the
voice of popular favour once more be raised in her behalf, might tend to
his overthrow; and that struggle, as he well knew, could take place only
on the soil of France. Her exile was his safety; and the astute Cardinal
had long determined that it should end only with her life.[218]

On every side the unfortunate Marie de Medicis saw herself surrounded by
misfortune. Gaston, at the instigation of the Cardinal, had ceased to
supply his neglected wife with the means of supporting, not merely her
rank, but even her existence, and had left her dependent upon the
generosity of the Spanish Government which he had so unblushingly
betrayed. He had himself become a mere cypher in the kingdom over which
he hoped one day to rule. He seldom appeared at Court; and when he was
prevailed upon to do so, he was the obsequious admirer of Richelieu, and
the submissive subject of the King. The Spaniards, since the departure
of the heir-apparent to the French Crown, had ceased to evince the same
respect towards the mother whom he had abandoned; and although they
still accorded to her a pension that placed her above want, the
munificence with which they had greeted her arrival had long ceased to
call forth her gratitude. Her position was consequently desperate; and
her only prospect of escaping from so miserable a fate as that by which
she was ultimately threatened existed in the hope that should she
voluntarily retire from Flanders, and place herself under the protection
of England, she might yet succeed in enforcing her claims.

While she was still meditating this project, Christine, the widowed
Duchess of Savoy, resolved to make a last effort to effect the recall of
her persecuted mother to France; and for this purpose she despatched to
Paris a Jesuit named Monod, who succeeded in establishing a friendship
with Caussin, the King's confessor, whom he induced to second the
attempt. As both one and the other, however, believed success to be
impossible so long as Richelieu retained his influence over the mind of
the sovereign, they resolved to undermine his favour. Caussin, like all
his predecessors, had great power over the timid conscience and
religious scruples of his royal penitent, and the two Jesuits were well
aware that through these alone could Louis be rendered vulnerable to
their entreaties; while they were, moreover, encouraged in their hopes
by the circumstance that the Cardinal-Minister had never evinced the
slightest distrust of Caussin, whom he believed to be devoted to his
interests, and that the latter consequently possessed ample
opportunities for prosecuting his object.

At the close of the year, therefore, the attempt was made; and, as the
Jesuit had anticipated, Louis listened with submission and even respect
to his expostulations. "Your minister misleads you, Sire," said his
confessor, "where your better nature would guide you in the right path.
He it is who has induced your Majesty to abandon your mother, who is not
only condemned to exile, but reduced to the greatest necessity, and
indebted to strangers for the very means of existence."

The King was visibly moved by this assertion, but he remained silent,
and suffered the ecclesiastic to proceed. Emboldened by this attention,
Caussin did not scruple to declare that the Cardinal had usurped an
amount of power which tended to degrade the royal authority; that the
subjects of France were reduced to misery by the exorbitant taxation to
which they were subjected; and that the interests of religion itself
were threatened by Richelieu, who was affording help to the Swedes and
the Protestants of Germany.

"Shake off this yoke, Sire," concluded the Jesuit; "exert your royal
prerogative, and dismiss the Cardinal-Duke from office. Be the sovereign
of your own nation, and the master of your own actions. You will have a
more tranquil conscience, and a more prosperous reign."

"You are perhaps right, Father," replied the King with emotion; "but you
must give me time for reflection."

Caussin obeyed, auguring well of his mission; but his self-gratulation
was premature, for he had scarcely left the closet of his penitent when
he was succeeded by the Cardinal, who, perceiving the agitation of the
King, experienced little difficulty in extorting from him the subject of
the conversation in which he had just been engaged; and a few moments
sufficed to restore alike the complacency of Louis and his confidence in
his minister.

There is sufficient evidence to prove that the French King never
bestowed his regard upon Richelieu; as a boy he had evinced towards him
an undisguised aversion which he never overcame, but he had learnt to
fear him; the feeble mind of the monarch had bowed before the strong
intellect of the minister; the sovereign could not contend against the
statesman; the crown of France rested upon the brows of the one, but her
destinies were poised in the hand of the other; and the strength of
Richelieu grew out of the weakness of his master.

As a natural consequence of his imprudence Caussin was shortly
afterwards arrested, and banished to Brittany; and the Cardinal no
sooner ascertained the complicity of Monod than, despite the reluctance
of the Duchess of Savoy to abandon a man who had hazarded his life in
her cause, he was, in his turn, condemned to expiate his error by a
rigorous captivity.[219]

The unhoped-for pregnancy of Anne of Austria at this period once more
revived the hopes of Marie de Medicis, who trusted that on such an
occasion a general amnesty would necessarily supervene. She deceived
herself, however; for although Richelieu professed the greatest desire
to see her once more in France, he was in reality as earnest as ever in
creating obstacles to a reconciliation so inimical to his own interests.
In vain did the unhappy Queen-mother remind him of her advancing age and
her increasing necessities; and plead that, whatever might have been her
former errors, they must now be considered as expiated by seven weary
years of exile; the minister only replied by expressions of his profound
regret that the internal politics of the kingdom did not permit him to
urge her recall upon the sovereign; and his extreme desire to see her
select a residence elsewhere than within the territory of his enemies,
where she was subjected to perpetual suspicion; while, should she
determine to fix her abode at Florence, his Majesty was prepared to
restore all her forfeited revenues, and to confer upon her an
establishment suited to her rank and dignity.

As Richelieu was well aware, no proposal could be more unpalatable than
this to the haughty Princess. Eight-and-thirty years had elapsed since
Marie de Medicis, then in the full pride of youth and beauty, had
quitted her uncle's court in regal splendour to ascend the throne of
France; and now--how did the heartless minister urge her to return?
Hopeless, friendless, and powerless; with a name which had become a
mockery, to a family wherein she would be a stranger. At Florence her
existence was a mere tradition. All who had once loved her were
dispersed or dead; no personal interest bound her to their survivors;
and where long years previously she might have claimed affection, she
could now only anticipate pity or dread contempt. The perpetual
illnesses of the King, moreover, rendered her averse to such a measure;
every succeeding attack had produced a more marked effect upon the
naturally feeble constitution of Louis; the astrologers by whom she was
surrounded continued to foretell his approaching death; and she yet
indulged visions of a second regency, during which she might once more
become all-powerful.

Nevertheless, she could not conceal from herself that by persistently
remaining in a country at open war with France, she strengthened the
hands of Richelieu without advancing her own interests; and although
she felt that she could ill dispense with the generosity of her
son-in-law Philip of Spain, who, even at a period when he frequently
found himself unable to meet the demands of his army, still continued to
treat her with a munificence truly royal, she resolved to withdraw from
the Low Countries; and, accordingly, on the 10th of August, alleging
that she was about to remove to Spa for the restoration of her health,
she took her leave of the Court of Brussels; and, suddenly changing her
route, proceeded to Bois-le-Duc, where she placed herself under the
protection of the Prince of Orange.[220]

The arrival of the Queen-mother in Holland excited universal
gratulation, as the Dutch did not for an instant doubt that it was a
preliminary to a reconciliation with her son; and once more she found
herself the object of universal homage. Municipal processions and civic
banquets were hastily arranged in her honour; every hotel-de-ville was
given up for her accommodation; burgomasters harangued her, and citizens
formed her bodyguard; while so enthusiastic were the self-deceived
Hollanders that even Art was enlisted in her welcome, and engravings
still exist wherein her reception is commemorated under the most
extravagant allegories; one of which represents the aged and
broken-hearted Queen as the goddess Ceres, drawn by two lions in a
gilded car. But her advent in Holland was, unhappily, not destined to
ensure to her either the power or the abundance with which she was thus
gratuitously invested by the pencil of the painter; for on her arrival
at the Hague, when, in compliance with her entreaty, the Prince of
Orange personally solicited her restoration to favour and her return to
France, pledging himself in her name that she would never again
interfere in the public affairs of the kingdom, nor enter into any cabal
either against the state or the Cardinal-Minister, his application was
totally disregarded by Louis XIII; and only elicited an official reply
from Richelieu to the effect "that his Majesty could not receive the
said lady and Queen into his realm, inasmuch as he had just reason to
fear that she would continue under his name, and perhaps unknown to him,
to create factions and cabals, not only in his own kingdom, but in those
of his allies; but that should it please the said lady and Queen to
retire to Florence, where the malcontents could not exert their
influence over her mind, or injure either himself or his allies, his
Majesty again offered her, as he had already done, a position at once
more honourable and inure opulent than that with which she had contented
herself in Flanders." [221]

This answer was, as Richelieu had intended that it should be, perfectly
decisive to the Prince, who was aware that Marie de Medicis would have
preferred death to a return to the banks of the Arno under her present
circumstances; while the so-lately enthusiastic Hollanders, on
ascertaining that the French Ambassador at the Hague had received
orders not to wait upon or recognize their new guest, began to apprehend
that her presence in their country might injure their interests with
France; while, at the same time, the great outlay necessary for the
maintenance of her establishment alarmed their economy; and it was
consequently not long ere they respectfully intimated to her Majesty
their trust that she would not prolong her sojourn among them.

This was a new outrage upon her dignity which struck to the very soul of
the royal exile, who resolved no longer to defer her departure for
England; and, accordingly, on the 19th of November she embarked for that
country. Still, however, misfortune appeared to pursue her, for the
winter proved one of great severity, and she narrowly escaped shipwreck,
after having been tempest-tossed for several days. Her reception,
nevertheless, compensated for this temporary suffering, as Charles
himself travelled in state to Gravesend to escort her to London, where
the most magnificent preparations had been made for her accommodation
and that of her retinue in St. James's Palace. The fifty apartments
which were appropriated to her use had been arranged under the personal
superintendence of her daughter Henrietta of England, and were replete
with every luxury which could conduce to the well-being of the
illustrious exile; while, as if to compensate alike to her persecuted
mother and to herself for the tardiness of their meeting (the advanced
pregnancy of the English queen having rendered it inexpedient that she
should be exposed to the fatigue of travelling), she no sooner
ascertained, by the trumpet-blast which announced its appearance, that
the carriage containing her royal consort and his illustrious guest had
entered the principal court of the palace, than she hastened, surrounded
by her children, to bid them welcome; and as her unhappy parent
descended from the coach supported on the arm of the King, Henriette
threw herself upon her knees before her, and seizing her hands, pressed
them convulsively to her heart, and bathed them with her tears. Marie de
Medicis, tutored as she had been in suffering, was scarcely less moved;
and thus the meeting between the august mother and daughter was most
affecting: Henriette had so long yearned for the companionship of her
kindred, while Marie de Medicis had, on her side, been for so great a
period cut off from all the ties of family affection, that as they wept
in each other's arms, the one was unable to articulate a welcome, and
the other to express her acknowledgments for the warm greeting which she
had experienced.

Immediately on her arrival in England, Charles I. awarded to the exiled
Queen a pension of a hundred pounds a day on the civil list; but her
advent had, nevertheless, occurred at an inauspicious moment for the
English sovereign, whose resources were crippled, and who abstained
from levying subsidies upon his subjects in order not to assemble a
Parliament; while he moreover dreaded that the presence of his royal
mother-in-law, with her numerous train of priests, would tend to
exasperate the spirit of the people, who were already greatly excited
against the Roman Catholics.

Nor were these his only causes of anxiety, as many of the French
malcontents who had fled their country in order to escape the enmity of
Richelieu had selected London as their place of refuge, relying upon the
friendship of Henriette (a circumstance which had increased the coldness
that already existed between the two Courts); and these at once rallied
round Marie de Medicis as their common centre. Among these illustrious
emigrants the most distinguished were the Duchesse de Chevreuse and the
Ducs de Soubise and de la Valette, all of whom were surrounded by a
considerable number of exiles of inferior rank; and as the Queen-mother
saw them gathered about her, she easily persuaded herself that their
voluntary absence from France was a convincing proof of the general
unpopularity of her own arch--enemy Richelieu. Her personal suite,
moreover, included no less than two hundred individuals; and thus the
palace of the Stuarts presented the anomalous spectacle of a French
Court, where the nobles of a hostile land, and the priests of a hostile
faith, held undisturbed authority, to the open dissatisfaction of the
sturdy citizens of London. Murmurs were rife on all sides; and the
Queen-mother was regarded as a harbinger of misfortune. Henriette
herself was obnoxious to the Puritans, but they had been to a certain
degree disarmed by her gentleness of demeanour, and the prudence and
policy of her conduct; she was, moreover, the wife of the sovereign, and
about to become the mother of a prince; but Marie de Medicis possessed
no claims on their forbearance, and they did not hesitate to attribute
to her views and designs which she was too powerless to entertain.

At this period the Queen-mother was subjected to the mortification of
learning that M. de Bellievre, the ambassador-extraordinary of her son
at the Court of England, had received stringent instructions to abstain
from all demonstration of courtesy towards her person; and even to avoid
finding himself in her presence, whenever the etiquette of his position
would permit of his absenting himself from the royal circle; a command
which he so scrupulously obeyed, that although, in her anxiety to enlist
him in her cause, she had more than once endeavoured to address him, she
had constantly failed; until Lord Holland, at her entreaty, on one
occasion contrived to detain him in the great gallery at Whitehall,
where Marie de Medicis entered accompanied by the King and Queen.

As the royal party passed near him, Bellievre bowed low, without looking
towards the mother of his sovereign. Escape was impossible; and he
consequently remained silent and motionless.

"Monsieur l'Ambassadeur," said a well-remembered voice, "I wish to
exchange a few words with you."

Charles and Henriette moved on; Lord Holland withdrew; and the
Queen-mother at length found herself face to face with the French envoy,
who had no alternative but to assume an attitude of profound respect,
and to extricate himself from this unexpected difficulty as best
he might.

Marie de Medicis was painfully agitated. Her future fate in all
probability hinged upon this long-coveted interview, and some seconds
elapsed before she could utter a syllable. She continued standing,
although her emotion compelled her to lean for support upon a table; and
Bellievre, courtier though he was, could scarcely have looked unmoved
upon the wreck of pride and power thus placed before him. Years and
sorrows had furrowed the lofty brow, and dimmed the flashing eyes, of
the once beautiful Tuscan Princess, but she still retained all that
dignity of deportment for which she was celebrated on her arrival in her
adopted country. She was a fugitive and an exile, but she was yet every
inch a Queen; and her very misfortunes invested her with an interest
which no true and honest heart could fail to feel.

"Sir," she said at length, "I have for some time past endeavoured by
every means in my power to impress upon the Cardinal de Richelieu my
earnest desire to return to France by his interposition; but all my
attempts have been useless. I have received no reply."

"Madame," interposed Bellievre, "I humbly entreat of your Majesty to
permit me to explain that although I have the honour to be the
representative of my sovereign at this Court, I am not authorized to
appear in that character towards yourself. It is possible that your
Majesty has the intention of entrusting me with some message, in which
case I entreat of you to excuse me when I decline to undertake its
transmission. I have express orders not to interfere in anything
connected either with the person or with the concerns of your Majesty."

"You have probably not been forbidden to hear what I desire to say,"
exclaimed the Queen, with a burst of her former spirit.

"I confess it, Madame," conceded the ambassador; "but since I was not
commanded to do so, I beg that I may be forgiven should I decline to
obey you in the event of your requiring me to make any written
communication from yourself to the King my master."

"Enough!" said Marie de Medicis, with a gesture of impatience. "Listen.
The afflictions which I have undergone since I took refuge in the Low
Countries have inspired me with very different feelings from those with
which I left Compiegne. I beg you to inform the Cardinal that I entreat
of him to deliver me from the miserable position in which I now find
myself, and from the bitter necessity of soliciting my bread from my
sons-in-law. I desire to be once more near the King. I do not ask for
either power or authority; all that I require is to pass the remainder
of my days in peace, and in preparing myself for death. If the Cardinal
cannot obtain the permission of the King for my return to Court, let him
at least request that I may be allowed to reside in some city within the
kingdom, and be restored to the possession of my revenues. I offer to
dismiss from my household all such individuals as may be obnoxious to
his Majesty, and to obey him in all things without comment. His orders
and the advice of the Cardinal shall regulate my conduct. This is all
that I require you to communicate to the latter; as I fear that those to
whom I have hitherto addressed myself have been deficient either in
courage or in will to perform the errand entrusted to them."

Bellievre hesitated for a moment. There was a tearful tremor in the
voice of the persecuted Princess which it required all his diplomacy to
resist; but he soon rallied. "Madame," he replied calmly, "your Majesty
shall have no reason to visit the same reproach on me, for it is with
extreme regret that I protest my utter inability to serve you on this
occasion."

"I fully comprehend the value of your frankness, M. de Bellievre," said
the Queen-mother, as she raised herself to her full height, and fixed
upon him her dark and searching eyes. "Such is the usual style of
ambassadors. They decline to undertake certain commissions, but they
nevertheless report all that has taken place. I had experience of that
fact more than once during my regency."

Having uttered these biting words, Marie de Medicis turned from the
discomfited courtier, and approached the window to which Charles I. and
his Queen had retired; followed, however, by Bellievre.

"Your Majesties must permit me," he said firmly, "to repeat in your
presence what I have already declared to the mother of my sovereign. I
dare not undertake the mission with which she desires to honour me. You
will, without doubt, remember, Madame," he added, turning towards
Henriette, whose emotion was uncontrollable, "that you have on several
occasions commanded me to write in your name in behalf of the
Queen-mother; and that I have always entreated of your Majesty not to
insist on my obedience, in consequence of the stringent orders which I
have received to avoid all interference in an affair of which the King
my master desires to reserve the exclusive management."

"I do not deny it, sir," said Henriette with dignity; "but since my
royal brother will not consent to listen to any solicitations in favour
of the Queen my mother, my husband and myself have conceived that the
only alternative which remains to her is to compel an explanation with
his ministers, with the participation of the several European Courts in
which she may see fit to reside."

Again M. de Bellievre declared his utter inability to meet the wishes of
the persecuted Marie; upon which Charles, coldly bending his head to the
French envoy, offered a hand to each of the agitated Queens, and led
them from the gallery.

Despite all his professions of neutrality, however, Bellievre, as Marie
de Medicis had predicted, lost no time in communicating all the details
of the interview to Richelieu,[222] who forthwith dictated a private
despatch, to which he obtained the signature of Louis, to repulse the
demand of the Queen-mother. The Cardinal had passed the Rubicon. He
could no longer hope that his persecuted benefactress would ever again
place confidence in his protestations, or quietly permit him to exert
the authority which he had so arrogantly assumed; and thus he readily
persuaded the weak monarch--who had, moreover, long ceased to reason
upon the will of his all-powerful minister--that the return of the
ill-fated Marie to France would be the signal of intestine broil and
foreign aggression. In vain did Henrietta of England address letter
after letter to her royal brother, representing the evil impression
which so prolonged a persecution of their common parent had produced
upon the minds of all the European princes; the fiat of Richelieu had
gone forth; and the only result obtained by the filial anxiety of the
English Queen was a series of plausible replies, in which she was
complimented upon her good intentions, but at the same time requested
not to interfere in the private arrangements of the King her brother.

Desirous, nevertheless, of escaping the odium of so unnatural and
revolting an abandonment of his royal benefactress, the Cardinal caused
a council to be assembled to consider her demand, and to deliberate upon
the measures to be adopted in consequence; declaring his own intention
to maintain a strict neutrality, and instructing the several members to
deliver to him their opinions in writing. All had, however, been
previously concerted; before the meeting assembled Richelieu informed
his coadjutors that the King had voluntarily declared that no reliance
was to be placed upon the professions of the Queen-mother, as she had on
many previous occasions acted with great dissimulation, and that it was
not in her nature long to remain satisfied with any place in which she
might take up her abode; that she could not make herself happy in
France, where she was both powerful and honoured; that she had been
constantly discontented in Flanders, although she had adopted that
country as her own; that she had lived in perpetual hostility with the
Duc d'Orleans after having induced him to quit the kingdom; and that she
was even then at variance with the Princesse Marguerite, although she
had countenanced her marriage with Monsieur in opposition to the will of
the sovereign; that she had not gone to Holland without some hostile
motive to himself and his kingdom; and that she was already becoming
weary of England.

Moreover, as the Cardinal further informed them, Louis XIII had himself
asserted that since her Majesty had failed to content herself with the
exalted position which she had at one time filled in France, it was not
to be anticipated that she would rest satisfied with that which, should
she return, she must hereafter occupy; but would once more become a
rallying point for all the malcontents who were formerly her
adherents.[223]

Thus prompted, the members of the council readily came to the conclusion
"that the King could not with safety decide upon the proposition of the
Queen-mother until the establishment of a solid peace had placed the
intentions of that Princess beyond suspicion, being aware of her
intelligence with the enemies of his kingdom; and that, from the same
motive, as well as from the apprehension that she might be induced to
make an ill use of her revenues, they were of opinion that they should
only be restored to her on the condition that she should fix her future
residence at Florence." [224]

This was, as we have already shown, the invariable expedient of
Richelieu, who was aware that the prospect of the Queen-mother's return
to France was not more repugnant to himself than the idea of retiring in
disgrace and dishonour to her birthplace had ever been to his unhappy
victim; and the proposal was accordingly repeated at every opportunity,
because the minister was aware that it would never be accepted; while it
afforded, from its apparent liberality, a pretext for casting the whole
odium of her prolonged exile upon Marie de Medicis herself.

In order to carry out the vast schemes of his ambition, the Cardinal
had, at this period, reduced the monarch to a mere cypher in his own
kingdom; but he could not, nevertheless, blind himself to the fact that
Louis XIII, who was weak rather than wicked, had frequent scruples of
conscience, and that during those moments of reflection and remorse he
was easily influenced by those about him; while, whenever this occurred,
he evinced a disposition to revolt against the ministerial authority
which alarmed the Cardinal, and compelled him to be constantly upon his
guard. After having throughout fifteen years successfully struggled
against the spread of Calvinism, and that remnant of feudal anarchy
which still lingered in France; humbled the House of Austria, his most
dreaded rival; and, in order to aggrandize the state he served, sowed
the seeds of revolution in every other European nation, and thus
compelled their rulers to concentrate all their energies upon
themselves, he was now constrained to descend to meaner measures, and to
enact the spy upon his sovereign; lest in some unlucky moment the
edifice, which it had cost him so mighty an amount of time and talent
to erect, should be overthrown by a breath.

True, Marie de Medicis was an exile and a wanderer; the royal brothers,
through his means, alienated in heart; discord and suspicion rife
between the monarch and his neglected wife; while even the first passion
of the King's youth had been quenched by Richelieu's iron will. The
affection of Louis XIII for Mademoiselle de la Fayette--an affection
which did equal honour to both parties from its notorious and
unquestioned propriety, but which has been too frequently recorded to
require more than a passing allusion--had been crossed and thwarted; the
fair maid of honour loved and respected Anne of Austria as much as she
feared and loathed the Cardinal-Minister; and she was accordingly an
obstacle and a stumbling-block to be removed from his path. She also was
immured in a cloister, and was consequently no longer dangerous as a
rival in the good graces of the King; yet still Richelieu was far from
tranquil; and the _petit coucher_ of the King was to him a subject of
unceasing apprehension. He was well aware that Louis was as unstable as
he was distrustful; and thus a new mistress, a new favourite, or even a
passing caprice, might, when he was totally unprepared for such an
event, suffice to annihilate his best-considered projects.

Poor Marie! Under such circumstances as these all her efforts at
conciliation were vain; and it is probable that she would have sunk
under the conviction, had not her failing courage been sustained by the
affectionate and earnest representations of her daughter, Henrietta
of England.

FOOTNOTES:

[215] Le Clerc, vol. ii. pp. 197, 198. Sismondi, vol. xxiii. pp. 253,
254. Siri, _Mem. Rec_. vol. viii. p. 354.

[216] Siri, _Mem. Rec_. vol. viii. p. 272. Le Clerc, vol. ii. pp.
202-207.

[217] Le Vassor, vol. viii. pp. 516, 517.

[218] Le Vassor, vol. ix. pp. 154-160.

[219] Mezeray, vol. xi. pp. 489, 490.

[220] Siri, _Mem. Rec_. vol. viii. p. 639. Sismondi, vol. xxiii. pp.
362, 363.

[221] Bibliotheque Royale. MSS. de Colbert, entitled _Affaires de
France_, No. 2, 1638.

[222] Despatch of Bellievre of the 29th of December. MSS. de Colbert,
No. 26.

[223] _MSS. de Bethune_, quoted by Capefigue.

[224] Bazin, vol. iv. p. 130. Le Vassor, vol. ix. pp. 35-40. Capefigue,
vol. v. pp. 342-346. Sismondi, vol. xxiii. pp. 367-369. Mezeray, vol.
xi. pp. 499-501. Le Clerc, vol. ii. pp. 352-354.

CHAPTER XIII

1639-42

Charles I. despatches an envoy to Louis XIII to negotiate the recall of
the Queen-mother--Richelieu aspires to the regency--The embassy
fails--Queen Henrietta resolves to proceed in person to Paris--Her visit
is declined by the French King--Charles I. recalls his ambassador from
the Court of France--The increasing animosity of the English people
against the Queen-mother compels her to seek another retreat--She is
requested by Parliament to leave the country--Philip of Spain refuses to
afford her an asylum--She proceeds to Holland, and thence to
Antwerp--The painter-prince--A voluntary envoy--The last letter--Marie
de Medicis is commanded to quit the Low Countries--She takes refuge at
Cologne--The last home of fallen royalty--Waning health of
Richelieu--His intellectual energy--Trial of the Duc de la
Valette--Trial of the Duc de Vendome--Affected magnanimity of the
Cardinal--Senatorial sycophancy--Exile of the Duc and Duchesse de
Vendome--Execution of M. de Saint-Preuil--Conspiracy against
Richelieu--The stolen meetings--The titled beggar--Secret
service--Complicity of Cinq-Mars discovered--Execution of Cinq-Mars and
De Thou--Cowardice of the Duc d'Orleans--Lingering hopes of Marie de
Medicis--Rubens and Richelieu--The abortive mission--Rubens proceeds to
Madrid--The Kings of England and Spain withhold all pecuniary aid from
the Queen-mother--Despair of Marie de Medicis--Her utter
destitution--Death-bed of a crowned head--Tardy honours--Filial
affection and priestly piety--The vaults of St. Denis.

Indignant at the prolonged sufferings of her helpless mother, the gentle
wife of Charles I. found little difficulty in inducing her royal husband
to despatch the Earl of Jermyn to the Court of France, with instructions
to use his utmost endeavours to effect a reconciliation; while, in order
to render his exertions less onerous, he was enjoined to observe the
greatest consideration towards the Cardinal, and to assure him that
Marie de Medicis was anxious to owe her success to his good offices
alone; and thus to place herself under an obligation which must tend to
convince him of her sincere desire to cultivate his regard, and to
withdraw herself entirely from all public affairs. Richelieu, however,
was, as we have shown, little disposed to incur so great a risk; while
the birth of a Dauphin had only tended to strengthen his determination
to keep her out of the country, as the declining health of the King had
opened up a new channel to his ambition; and he had secretly resolved,
should Louis succumb to one of the constantly recurring attacks of his
besetting disease, to cause himself to be proclaimed Regent of the
kingdom. This idea, calmly considered, appears monstrous; not only
because the monarch had not at this period attained his fortieth year,
but also because there existed three individuals who had a more
legitimate claim to the coveted dignity than the Cardinal--Marie de
Medicis, who had already been Regent of France during the minority of
her son; Anne of Austria, who was the mother of the future sovereign;
and Gaston d'Orleans, who, should the infant Prince fail to survive,
would become his successor. Two of these claimants were, however, as
Richelieu well knew, both suspected by and odious to Louis--the
Queen-consort and Monsieur; and he was resolved not to permit the third
to return to France while such a casualty was in abeyance, feeling
convinced that, in order to avenge her long and bitter sufferings, she
would either league with her daughter-in-law and son to traverse his
projects, or perhaps, by grasping at the reins of government, and openly
opposing his power, not only remove him from office, but even dispossess
him of the immense wealth which he had accumulated during his ministry,
and make him amenable for the crimes of which he had been guilty.

On his arrival at the Court of France, Lord Jermyn hastened to wait upon
Richelieu, to whom he delivered a letter from his royal mistress; but
even this demonstration of respect failed in its object, as the
minister, after having assured himself of the contents of the despatch,
referred the envoy to the King himself, declaring that he could not take
the initiative in an affair of so much importance to the welfare and
tranquillity of the kingdom. The English peer accordingly requested an
audience of the monarch; but, as may easily be conceived, he did not
obtain it until all had been previously concerted between Louis and his
minister; while, to the letter addressed to him by his sister, the
Cardinal-ridden King returned the following cold and inexorable reply:--

"I have never been wanting in good feeling towards the Queen my mother,
but she has so often intrigued against the state, and entered into
engagements with my declared enemies, that I cannot come to any
determination concerning her until a solid peace with the rest of Europe
shall render me less suspicious of her intentions than I am at
present." [225]

In order, however, to render the humiliation of the unfortunate Marie de
Medicis still more complete, Richelieu subjoined a note to the British
envoy, of which these were the contents:--

"If Lord Jermyn should state that the prospect of peace offers no
impediment to granting a supply of money to the Queen-mother, his
Majesty may safely reply that he has duly considered the subject, and
can do nothing more, as he has no assurance that so long as the war
continues, the servants of the Queen his mother, by whom she is guided,
may not make an evil use of the generosity of his Majesty against his
own interests, and in favour of those of Spain."

Despite the unpromising commencement of his mission, Lord Jermyn
nevertheless persisted, in obedience to the orders which he had
received, in urging the cause of the exiled Queen; but the result of
his exertions was a mere repetition of the original objections, coupled
moreover with an intimation that until Marie de Medicis had dismissed
every member of her household who was obnoxious to the King her son, and
had lived for a time out of the country in complete obedience to his
will, whatever it might please him to ordain concerning her, he declined
all further negotiation; with the assurance, however, that when she had
submitted to this ordeal, she was at liberty to solicit his renewed
commands, and to enjoy her revenues in whatever place of residence he
might see fit to allot to her for the future.

The total want of justice and generosity evinced by this reply revolted
Henriette; who was aware that, in order to conciliate Richelieu, the
Queen-mother had deprived herself of the services of Chanteloupe and the
Abbe de St. Germain, both of whom she had left at Brussels, although,
unlike Gaston d'Orleans, she was incapable of sacrificing them to her
own interests; and, satisfied that no envoy, however zealous, could cope
with the influence of the Cardinal, she accordingly resolved to plead
the cause of her persecuted mother in person. In pursuance of this
determination the English Queen, whose health had suffered from her
recent confinement, availed herself of the circumstance to solicit the
permission of her brother to pass a short time at his Court, in order to
test the influence of her native air; but Richelieu, who suspected her
real motive, induced his sovereign to delay any reply until the summer
was considerably advanced, and finally to inform her that he was about
to proceed to the frontier, and could not consequently have the
happiness of bidding her welcome.

Indignant at so marked a want of respect, Charles I. immediately
recalled the Earl of Leicester and Lord Scudamore, who were at that
period his representatives at the Court of France, with stringent orders
not to receive any present from Louis XIII on their departure; while
Richelieu, as he returned their parting compliments, secretly resolved
that in order to prevent a league between the English sovereign and
Philip of Spain in favour of the Queen-mother, he would leave no measure
untried to foment the intestine troubles of England, and to increase
those of Scotland, and so compel Charles to confine his attention to his
own immediate dominions.[226]

The refusal of Louis XIII to permit the return of his mother to France
created great excitement throughout England; but, unhappily, both
herself and her daughter were obnoxious to the Puritan party, who were
in open revolt against the royal authority; and meanwhile Charles I., in
arms against his subjects, crippled in his resources, and deprived of
the support of his Parliament, was totally unable to enforce his rights.
Day by day his own position became more precarious; he was accused of a
tendency towards Romanism, and upbraided with an undue submission to the
principles and feelings of a wife to whom he was tenderly attached, but
who was regarded by the sectarians with loathing; while, on the other
hand, the Court of France considered itself aggrieved, not only by his
refusal to enter into an aggressive alliance against Spain, but also by
the hospitality which he had accorded to the unfortunate Marie de
Medicis; and by his refusal to accede to the dismemberment of the Low
Countries.

It is, however, beyond our purpose to dwell upon the intestine troubles
of England at this period; and it must consequently suffice that the
Queen-mother--painfully aware how greatly her presence in London added
to the difficulties of her royal son-in-law, and excited the animosity
of the Cardinal, whose agents were actively exasperating the spirit of
the people against their sovereign--was unwearied in her efforts at
conciliation, all of which, as they had previously done, proved
ineffectual; and thus month succeeded month; and as the disaffection
grew stronger throughout the realm of Great Britain, and the animosity
of the populace against herself, her daughter, and all who professed
their faith, became more undisguised, she was compelled to admit to
herself that not even the affection of Henriette could longer afford
her a refuge.

The decapitation of the Duc de la Valette, and the death of the Comte de
Soissons, had rendered the Cardinal-Minister more powerful than ever;
while Gaston d'Orleans had, since the birth of the Dauphin, withdrawn
himself from the Court; and although he still conspired, he did so
timidly, as though prematurely assured of defeat; and thus no hope
remained to Marie of a return to France, while she felt that her longer
residence in England was impossible.

Yet still she lingered on, endeavouring by the inoffensiveness of her
deportment to disarm the animosity of the people, and enduring not only
menaces but even insult;[227] being ignorant in what direction to turn
her steps, lest she should throw herself into the power of her
arch-enemy. Her proud heart was bruised; her great name had become a
byword and a scorn; the wife and the mother of kings, before whose frown
the high-born and the powerful had once shrunk, sat shivering in the
vast halls of a foreign palace, shrinking beneath the hoarse cries of a
hostile multitude, and quailing in terror at their brutal threats.

During the popular commotion induced by the impeachment of the Earl of
Strafford, in 1640, the mob, equally incensed against the Romanists,
collected about St. James's Palace, and vociferated the most formidable
menaces against the priests who had accompanied the Queen-mother from
Flanders; while in a short time the crowd augmented so considerably in
number as to create great alarm for her personal safety. The Earl of
Holland, Lord Lieutenant of Middlesex, to whose vigilance she had been
confided, together with her household, immediately ordered out a hundred
musketeers to guard her; but many of these obeyed the command
reluctantly, declaring that they could find better employment than
watching over foreigners. Startled by this demonstration, Lord Holland
laid the case before the House of Peers (the royal authority being no
longer recognized), and generously represented the indignity of such an
insult to so great a Princess, who had, moreover, thrown herself upon
the hospitality of the nation to which she was so nearly allied; urging
them to avert the reproach which must inevitably fall upon the country
should the misguided zeal of the people be permitted to subject the
exiled Queen to violence, when her rank, her misfortunes, and her age
should alike render her person sacred.

The Peers referred the remonstrance to the Commons, who at once agreed
to the necessity of affording protection to the Queen-mother; but, urged
by the agents of Richelieu, they at the same time suggested that she
should be desired to depart the kingdom; "for the quieting those
jealousies in the hearts of his Majesty's well-affected subjects,
occasioned by some ill instruments about the Queen's person, by the
flowing of priests and Papists to her house, and by the use and practice
of the idolatry of the mass, and exercise of other superstitious
services of the Romish Church, to the great scandal of true
religion." [228]

Incapable of opposing the will of his Parliament, Charles I. had no
alternative save to request his unhappy mother-in-law to pardon him if
he entreated her to seek another asylum, while Marie de Medicis on her
side, compelled to obey this intimation, promised immediate compliance;
only imploring him to exert his influence with Philip of Spain to
receive her once more in his dominions; or, failing that concession, to
permit her passage through the Low Countries into Holland. Philip,
however, affecting great displeasure at the manner in which she had left
Brussels, refused to concede either favour; upon which the persecuted
Princess applied to the States-General of the United Provinces to afford
her an asylum; and solicited the Prince of Orange (whose son had
recently married her grand-daughter) to second her request. Both the
States-General and Frederic Henry, however, stood too much in awe of
Richelieu to venture thus to brave his displeasure; and, accordingly,
they also, in their turn, requested the Queen-mother to select
another retreat.

The iron hand of the Cardinal still pressed upon his victim. Abandoned
by her children, and by the ancient allies of the King her husband;
forsaken by her friends, and almost despised by her enemies, the
wretched Marie de Medicis found herself literally bereft of all support,
and at length, hopeless and heart-stricken, she took leave of her
afflicted daughter, who was fated only a few years later to become like
herself dependent upon the reluctant hospitality of her relatives; and
of her son-in-law, so soon to expiate the errors of his government upon
a scaffold; and in the month of August 1641 she quitted the Court of
London, under the escort of the Marquis of Arundel, and proceeded to
Holland, where the States-General informed her on her landing that the
country was so much impoverished by the long war which it had
sustained, that they were unable to provide funds for her maintenance.

The English Parliament had not, however, suffered her to leave their
shores entirely destitute, but had voted the sum of three thousand
pounds for her immediate expenses, pledging themselves, moreover, to
supply twice that amount at given periods.[229] On her arrival in
Holland Lord Arundel received her final commands, and returned to report
her safe passage to her daughter Henriette; while she herself, attended
only by a few attached followers, painfully pursued her way to Antwerp,
where she resolved, despite the prohibition of the Government, to take
up her temporary abode in the house of Rubens, and to remain in perfect
seclusion. The unfortunate and desolate Queen felt that she should not
experience such utter isolation while she could hold communion with one
true and loyal heart; and the past zeal of the artist-prince in her
service convinced her that from him she should still receive a welcome.

How does destiny at times mock human greatness, and reverse all social
rules! Here was a sovereign Princess, the wife and the mother of kings,
who, after eighteen weary years of struggle and suffering, was about to
solicit a shelter for her gray hairs from the man whom, in 1622, she had
invited to Paris, and upon whom she had lavished both riches and
honour, in order that he might perpetuate with his brilliant pencil the
short-lived triumphs of her regency. Nor was she, in this instance,
fated to disappointment, as her reception by the great painter was as
earnest and as respectful as though she still swayed the destinies
of France.

As Rubens knelt before her, and pressed her thin hand reverently to his
lips, the eyes of Marie de Medicis brightened, and a faint colour rose
to her wasted cheeks. For a time she forgot all her sufferings; and they
talked together of the proud period of her power, when she had laboured
to embellish her beloved city of Paris, and summoned Rubens to the
Luxembourg to execute the magnificent series of pictures which formed
its noblest ornament; but this happy oblivion could not long endure, and
scarcely an hour had elapsed ere they were engaged in concerting new
measures to effect her recall to France.

For several weeks the presence of the Queen-mother in Antwerp was not
suspected, and during that brief interval of comparative repose not a
day passed in which the subject was not earnestly discussed; until at
length Rubens, who was aware that the retreat of his royal guest must be
ultimately discovered, resolved to undertake in person the mission of
peace in which so many others had previously failed.

"Suffer me, Madame," said the painter, "to proceed without delay to
Paris charged with a letter from your Majesty to the King your son. The
pretext for my journey shall be my desire to execute a portrait of my
friend, the Baron de Vicq, our Ambassador at the French Court; and as I
do not doubt that his Christian Majesty will honour me with a summons to
his presence, I will then deliver your despatch into his own hands. The
happy results of my former missions render me sanguine of success on
this occasion; while I pledge myself that should I unfortunately fail in
my attempt to awaken the affection of the King towards your Majesty, it
shall be from no want of zeal or perseverance in your cause."

"My noble Maestro!" exclaimed Marie de Medicis; "I would with confidence
trust my life in your hands. My sorrows have at least not alienated your
generous heart: and there still remains one being upon earth who can be
faithful when my gratitude is all that I can offer in return. Listen to
me, Rubens. Even yet I am convinced that Louis loves me; a conviction
which is shared by Richelieu; and therefore it is that he condemns me to
exile. He fears my influence over the mind of the King my son, and has
injured me too deeply to place any faith in my forgiveness. Our mutual
struggle has extended over long years, and I have become its victim. Yet
would I fain make another effort. I am old and heart-broken, and I pine
to terminate my wretched existence on the soil of France. Surely this is
not too much to ask, and more I will not seek to obtain. You were born
under a fortunate constellation, Pietro Paolo; and I have confidence in
your success. Go then, and may God guide and prosper you: but--beware
of the Cardinal!"

"Fear not, Madame," said the painter, as he rose from his knee, and
placed writing materials before the agitated Queen. "In so righteous a
cause I shall be protected; but as further delay might prove fatal to
our hopes, I would venture to implore your Majesty to lose no time in
preparing the despatch of which I am to be the bearer."

"It shall be done," replied Marie, forcing a painful smile. "It will in
all probability be my last appeal; for should you fail, Rubens, I shall
feel that all is indeed lost!"

The artist bowed profoundly, and left the room in order to give the
necessary orders for his immediate departure; while his royal guest
seized a pen, and with a trembling hand, and in almost illegible
characters, wrote the following affecting letter:--

"Sire--During many years I have been deprived of your dear presence, and
have implored your clemency without any reply. God and the Holy Virgin
are my witnesses that my greatest suffering throughout that period has
proceeded less from exile, poverty, and humiliation, than from the
estrangement of a son, and the loss of his dear presence. Meanwhile I am
becoming aged, and feel that each succeeding hour is bringing me more
rapidly to the grave. Thus, Sire, would it not be a cruel and an
unnatural thing that a mother should expire without having once more
seen her beloved son, without having heard one word of consolation from
his lips, without having obtained his pardon for the involuntary wrongs
of which she may have been guilty towards him? I do not ask of you,
Sire, to return to France as a powerful Queen; should such be your good
pleasure, I will not even appear again at Court, and will finish my life
in any obscure town which you may see fit to select as my residence;
but, in the name of God and all the Saints, I adjure you not to allow me
to die out of the kingdom of France; or to suffer me any longer to drag
my sorrows and my misery from one foreign city to another; for you are
not aware, Sire, that the widow of Henri IV, and the mother of the
reigning monarch of France and Navarre, Louis XIII, will soon be without
a roof to shelter her head, and a little bread for her support! You are
not aware, Sire, that if the hour of my death were now to strike, no one
would be beside me to close my eyes, and to say, 'This is the body of
Marie de Medicis.' Take then compassion on my very humble request, Sire;
and receive, whatever may be your decision, the blessings of
your mother.

"In the city of Antwerp, the ninth day of October of the year of our
salvation MDCXLI.--I, the Queen-mother, MARIE."

As the painter-prince returned to the apartment, the Queen placed this
letter in his hands; and glancing at his travelling-garb, said in a
faltering voice: "So soon, Maestro? But you are right, and I may the
earlier look for your return."

Alas! once more the persecuted Princess suffered her sanguine
temperament to delude her into hope; but by one of those singular
coincidences which appear almost fabulous, Rubens had scarcely taken
leave of his family, and was about to enter the carriage that awaited
him, when a courier in the livery of the Governor of the Low Countries
galloped into the yard, and demanded to be ushered into the presence of
the Queen. Startled and alarmed by so unexpected an apparition, Rubens
had no alternative but to obey; and the messenger no sooner found
himself standing before Marie de Medicis, than, with a profound
reverence, he placed a letter in her hands, and with a second
salutation retired.

The Queen-mother hastily tore open the packet, of which these were the
contents:--

"Madame la Reine--We hereby inform you that the city of Antwerp cannot
afford you a befitting asylum, and that you would do better to take up
your residence at Cologne.

"Upon which, we pray God to keep you under His holy and efficient
guard.--I, the Governor of the Low Countries,

"DON FRANCISCO DE MELLO." [230]

Marie de Medicis sank back upon her seat, and silently held the
insulting letter towards Rubens.

"There is indeed no time to lose, Madame," exclaimed the artist, as he
glanced rapidly over its contents. "The spies of the Cardinal have
tracked you hither, and you must quit Flanders without delay. Dare I
hope that, in this emergency, your Majesty will deign to occupy a house
which I possess at Cologne, until my return from Paris?"

"Rubens, you are my preserver!" faltered the wretched Queen. "Do with me
as you will. You will meet your recompense in Heaven."

A few hours subsequently two carriages drove from the courtyard of
Rubens; the first contained Marie de Medicis and two of her ladies, and
took the way to Cologne; while the second, which was occupied by Rubens,
drove towards Paris.

On the 12th of October the Queen-mother reached her final resting-place,
and received permission to reside within the city; but this was the only
concession accorded to her; and in one of the most ancient and gloomy
streets in the immediate vicinity of the Cloth-market and the Church of
Saint Margaret, she took possession of a Gothic house in which the
greatest genius of the Flemish school had first seen the light. The room
in which Rubens was born had been reverently preserved in all its
original comfort by his family, and this apartment became the private
chamber of the Queen; who, for a time, sanguine as to the result of the
painter's mission, and rendered doubly hopeful by the constant reports
which reached her of the rapidly-declining health of Richelieu,
supported her new misfortunes with courage.

Unfortunately, however, for his victim, it was only physical suffering
by which the Cardinal was prostrated, for never had his mental powers
appeared more clear or more acute, or his iron will more indomitable,
than at this period, when a slow but painful disease was gradually
wearing away his existence; while superadded to this marvellous strength
and freshness of intellect--marvellous inasmuch as it triumphantly
resisted both physical agony and the conception of all those
rapidly-recurring and conflicting political combinations by which he had
excited alike the wonder and mistrust of every European state--his
irritation and impatience under the restraint enforced upon him by his
bodily ailments rendered him a more formidable enemy than ever.
Prematurely old, ruined in constitution, ever dreading the knife of the
assassin and the pen of the satirist, greedy of gold and power, wrapping
himself lovingly in the purple and fine linen of earth, while conscious
that ere long the sumptuous draperies of pride must be exchanged for a
winding-sheet, Richelieu looked with a jaundiced eye on all about him,
and appeared to derive solace and gratification only from the
sufferings of others. He had pursued the unfortunate Duc de la Valette
with his hatred until the Parliament, composed almost entirely of the
creatures of his will and the slaves of his passions, had condemned to
death the representative of the proud race of Epernon; and he had no
sooner accomplished this object than, emboldened by his fatal success,
he next ventured to fly his falcon at a still nobler quarry; and he
accordingly accused one of the natural sons of Henri IV, the Duc de
Vendome, of conspiring against his life. As, however, the Prince was not
within his grasp, so that his condemnation could not consequently
involve the loss of life, he contented himself with causing him to be
declared guilty _par contumace_, and with subsequently making a display
of affected generosity, and soliciting his pardon.

"Had he," said the Cardinal, in his wiry and peculiar tone, which was
broken at intervals by a hoarse and hollow cough--"had he conspired
against the sovereign or against the state, my duty as a minister, and
my devotion as a subject, would have compelled me on this occasion to
remain silent; but it was against my person alone that M. de Vendome
threatened violence, and I can forgive a crime which extended
no further."

Great was the wonder, and still greater the admiration, expressed by the
time-serving sycophants to whom he addressed himself. The several
members of the Council argued and remonstrated, assuring his Eminence
that he owed it to himself to let justice take its course; and
entreating that he would not endeavour to influence the sovereign on so
serious an occasion, where his generous self-abnegation might involve
his future safety; but Richelieu only replied with one of his ambiguous
smiles that he could not, in order to save his own life, consent to
sacrifice that of a Prince of the Blood; while at the same time he
induced the King to exile the Duchesse de Vendome and her two sons, MM.
de Mercoeur and de Besancon, from the capital. The members of the Court
by which the Duke had been tried and condemned were then commanded to
meet at an early hour in the morning on the 22nd of March at St.
Germain-en-Laye, where Louis XIII presided over the assembly in person;
and they had scarcely taken their seats when it was announced to the
King that Le Clerc, the secretary of the Cardinal-Minister, awaited in
the ante-room the royal permission to deliver to the Chancellor a letter
of which he was the bearer. His entrance having been sanctioned by the
sovereign, Le Clerc placed his despatches in the hands of Seguier, who
hastily cut the silk by which they were secured, and he had no sooner
made himself acquainted with their contents than he addressed a few
words in a low voice to the King.

"Gentlemen," said Louis, as the Chancellor fell back into his seat, "his
Eminence the Cardinal de Richelieu is desirous that I should pardon M.
de Vendome; but such is not my own opinion; I owe my protection to those
who, like M. le Cardinal, have served me with affection and fidelity;
and were I not to punish all attempts against his life, I should
experience great difficulty in finding ministers who would transact
public business with the same courage and devotion as my cousin of
Richelieu has done. M. le Cardinal eagerly demands a free pardon for the
Duc de Vendome; but no, no; I will not concede that pardon at present; I
will merely suspend the trial; and that measure will, believe me, prove
the most efficient one to hold in check so impetuous a character as his.
Nevertheless, read the letter aloud," he added, "that the Court may have
full cognizance of every circumstance connected with this
unhappy affair."

Seguier, after a profound obeisance to the sovereign, once more unfolded
the packet, of which these were the contents:

"Monsieur le Chancelier, the interests of the state having ever been the
sole object of my attention and anxiety, I consider that the public will
not be in any way benefited by a knowledge of the evil design of M. le
Duc de Vendome; and thus I have thought that I might, without any
prejudice to the royal service, implore of his Majesty to pardon M.
de Vendome."

Once more did the well-acted generosity and self-abnegation of the wily
Cardinal excite a universal and enthusiastic murmur of admiration;
while one of the Council, anxious to exhibit his attachment to the
person of Richelieu in the presence of the King, even carried his
sycophancy so far as to exclaim: "What a noble spirit! I propose that
the letter to which we have just listened should be inscribed on the
parliamentary register in order that it may descend to posterity." No
answering voice, however, seconded the proposition; for few who were
present at this extraordinary scene, and who remembered that the
relatives of the accused Prince had been driven from Paris at the
instigation of the Cardinal, doubted for an instant that they were
actors in a preconcerted drama, and they consequently remained silent,
until the King, after having glanced rapidly over the assembly, rose
from his seat, and said somewhat impatiently: "Gentlemen, you
may retire."

Such was the abrupt and indefinite termination of a trial which had, as
Richelieu intended that it should do, convulsed the whole aristocracy of
France. The son of Henri IV could not again set his foot upon the soil
of that kingdom which counted him among its Princes save at the risk of
his life; while his unoffending wife and sons were banished to a
distance from the capital which was their legitimate sphere of action,
and branded as the relatives of a conspirator.

The next victim of the inexorable Cardinal was M. de Saint-Preuil, the
Governor of Arras, who had fought valiantly against the Spaniards, and
in whom the King had evinced the greatest confidence. Accused upon some
frivolous pretext--although M. de Saint-Preuil had been assured by Louis
himself that he was at perfect liberty to exercise his authority within
the limits of his government as he should see fit, without being
amenable to any other individual--he was arrested, tried, and executed,
despite the desire of the weak monarch to turn aside the iron hand by
which he had been clutched. In this instance the vindictive minister
could afford to satiate his hatred, and even to give to his merciless
vengeance a semblance of patriotism, for here at least his own safety or
interests were not involved; and thus to all the representations of his
royal master he replied by lamenting that he dare not overlook the
commission of crime, while the welfare of a great nation and the safety
of its sovereign were confided to his care. It was no part of
Richelieu's policy to tolerate any individual, however inferior to
himself in rank and station, who ventured to place himself beyond the
pale of his own jealous authority; and thus the overstrained indulgence
of the King to a brave and successful soldier had signed his
death-warrant.

Still did the fatal disease which was preying upon the vitals of the
Cardinal silently work its insidious way, and reveal its baneful power
by sleepless nights, burning fever, and sharp bodily pain; but his
powerful mind and insatiable ambition enabled him to strive successfully
against these enervating influences; and Saint-Preuil was scarcely laid
in his dishonoured grave ere the remorseless minister sought around him
for more victims. The Comte de Soissons, who had been exiled from the
Court for resenting the arrogance of the Cardinal, had found an asylum
with the Duc de Bouillon at Sedan,[231] where it had, after considerable
difficulty, been conceded that he should be permitted to remain
unmolested for the space of four years, after which time he was to
remove to some other residence selected by the King, or in point of
fact, by Richelieu himself. The period named had now expired; and the
Cardinal, anxious still further to humiliate the great nobles, to whom,
as he was bitterly aware, his own obscure extraction was continually
matter of contemptuous comment, exacted from the timid and yielding
monarch that he should forthwith issue his commands to M. de Bouillon to
deliver up his cousin De Soissons to the keeping of his Majesty; or that
both Princes should humbly ask forgiveness of the Cardinal-Minister for
the affronts which they had put upon him.

The receipt of this offensive order at once determined the conduct of
the two friends. That the Comte de Soissons, a member of the haughty
house of Conde, and the Duc de Bouillon, the independent sovereign of
Sedan, both Princes of the Blood, should condescend to bend the knee,
and to entreat the clemency of Armand du Plessis, was an extent of
humiliation which neither the one nor the other could be brought to
contemplate for an instant; and thus it was instantly decided between
them that they would resist the mandate of the King even to the death;
while their opposition was strengthened by the impetuous vituperations
of the young Duc de Guise, who had, after a misunderstanding with the
minister, also claimed the hospitality of M. de Bouillon, and who
welcomed with enthusiasm so favourable an opportunity of revenging
himself upon his adversary.

The animosity of M. de Guise had grown out of his jealousy, which had
been excited by the ostentatious attentions paid by Richelieu to the
Princesse Gonzaga de Nevers, to whom he was himself tenderly attached,
and who was, moreover, the idol of the whole Court. Eagerly, therefore,
did he enter into the views of his aggrieved associates; and, as their
determination to resist the presumption of the haughty minister
necessarily involved precautionary measures of no ordinary character,
they lost no time in despatching a secret messenger to solicit the
support of the Archduke and the Spanish agents. With Don Miguel of
Salamanca they found little difficulty in concluding a treaty; and this
desirable object attained, they effected a second with the Court of
Vienna; while Jean Francois Paul de Gondy, who subsequently became
celebrated during the Fronde as the Cardinal de Retz, was instructed to
apprise their friends in Paris of the contemplated revolt, and to urge
their co-operation. The Duc de Guise meanwhile proceeded to Liege, in
order to levy troops for the reinforcement of the rebel army; the
several envoys having been instructed to declare that the Princes were
still devoted to their sovereign, and that they merely took up arms to
protect themselves against the violence and perfidy of the
Cardinal-Minister. Anxious to strengthen their faction at home,
Soissons, confiding in the frequent professions of attachment which had
been lavished upon him by Gaston d'Orleans, wrote to that Prince to
explain their motives and purposes, and to induce him to join in the
conspiracy. For once, however, Monsieur, much as he delighted in feuds
and factions, declined to take any part in their meditated resistance to
the ministerial authority, his own position having been rendered so
brilliant through the policy of the Cardinal that he feared to sacrifice
the advantages thus tardily secured; while, moreover, not satisfied with
returning evasive answers to M. de Soissons, which induced that Prince
to pursue the correspondence under the belief that his arguments would
ultimately induce Monsieur to join their party, he had the baseness, in
order to further his personal interests with the all-powerful minister,
to communicate to him the several letters of the Count immediately that
they reached him.

Irritated by the contemptuous epithets applied to him in these unguarded
epistles, and anxious to avert a danger which the delay of every
succeeding hour tended to render still more threatening, Richelieu
determined at once to attack the stronghold of his enemies; and an army
under the command of the Marechal de Chatillon was accordingly
despatched against Sedan. The result of the expedition proved, however,
inimical to the interests of the Cardinal, as the royal general was
utterly defeated, and more than two thousand of the King's troops,
together with the artillery and the treasure-chest, fell into the hands
of the rebels. The battle, fatal as it was in the aggregate,
nevertheless afforded one signal triumph to Richelieu in the death of
the Comte de Soissons, who was killed by the pistol-ball of a gendarme,
to whom, as a recompense for the murder of his kinsman, Louis XIII
accorded both a government and a pension. Dispirited by the fate of the
young Prince, to whom he was tenderly attached, Bouillon attempted no
further resistance, but tendered without delay his submission to the
sovereign, and received in return a free pardon, together with all those
individuals who had joined his banner, save the Duc de Guise, who, not
having been included in the treaty, was condemned _par contumace_.[232]

This result, so strongly opposed to the ordinarily severe policy of
Richelieu, was not, as must at once be apparent, obtained through his
influence. Powerful as he was through the King's sense of his own
helplessness, he had been throughout the whole of his ministerial career
thwarted at times by the ruling favourites of Louis, whose puerile
tastes rendered him as dependent upon others for mere amusement as he
was for assistance and support in the government of his kingdom. We have
already seen the projects of the haughty Cardinal at times traversed by
the equally arrogant and ambitious De Luynes, who was succeeded in the
favour and intimacy of the sovereign by M. de Saint-Simon,[233] from
whom the minister experienced equal annoyance; while the platonic
attachment of the King for Mademoiselle de Hautefort, whose energetic
habits and far-seeing judgment had involved him in still greater
difficulties, determined him to select such a companion for Louis as,
while he ministered to the idleness and _ennui_ of his royal master,
should at the same time subserve his own interests. To this end,
Richelieu, after mature deliberation, selected as the new favourite a
page named Cinq-Mars,[234] whose extraordinarily handsome person and
exuberant spirits could not fail, as he rightly imagined, to attract the
fancy and enliven the leisure of the moody sovereign.

This young noble, who was the son of an old and tried friend of the
Cardinal, had appeared at Court under his auspices, and consequently
regarded him as the patron of his future fortunes; a conviction which
tended to give to the relative position of the parties a peculiar and
confidential character well suited to the views of the astute minister.
Cinq-Mars, like all youths of his age, was dazzled by the brilliancy of
the Court, and eager for advancement; while he was at the same time
reckless, unscrupulous, and even morbidly ambitious; but these defects
were concealed beneath an exterior so prepossessing, manners so
specious, and acquirements so fascinating; there was such a glow and
glitter in his scintillating writ and uncontrollable gaiety, that few
cared to look beyond the surface, and all were loud in their admiration
of the handsome and accomplished page.

[Illustration: CINQ-MARS.]

Such was the tool selected by Richelieu to fashion out his purposes, and
he found a ready and a willing listener in the son of his friend, when,
with warm protestations of his esteem for his father and his attachment
to himself, he declared his intention of placing the ardent youth about
the person of his sovereign under certain conditions, which were at once
accepted by Cinq-Mars. These conditions, divested of the courtly shape
in which they were presented to _protege_, were simply that while the
page devoted himself to the amusement of his royal master, he should
carefully report to the Cardinal, not only the actions of the King, but
also the private conversations which might take place in his presence,
and the share maintained by the sovereign in each.

Had Cinq-Mars been less aspiring than he was, it is probable that
although yet a mere youth he would have shrunk with disgust from so
humiliating a proposition; but he remembered the career of De Luynes,
and he disregarded in the greatness of the end the unworthiness of the
means by which it was to be obtained. The brilliant page was accordingly
presented to the unsuspicious monarch by the minister, and, as the
latter had anticipated, at once captivated the fancy of Louis, who
having satisfied himself that Cinq-Mars possessed a sufficient knowledge
of those sports in which he himself delighted, at once consented to
receive him into his household.

For a time the page served with equal assiduity both the King and the
Cardinal, to the former of whom he so soon rendered himself essential
that although the confidential friends of Louis were occasionally
startled to find their most secret words known to the minister, and did
not scruple to express their suspicion that they were betrayed by
Cinq-Mars, Louis, too indolent and too selfish to risk the displeasure
of Richelieu, or to deprive himself of an agreeable associate, merely
laughed at the absurdity of such a supposition, and continued to treat
the page with the same confidence and condescension as heretofore.

Gradually did Cinq-Mars meanwhile weary of the complicated _role_ which
he was called upon to perform. He saw the health of the Cardinal failing
day by day; and he detected, from the querulous complaints in which
Louis constantly indulged against his imperious minister, that although
he was feared by his sovereign there was no tie of affection between
them. At this period the young courtier began for the first time to
reflect; and the result of his reflections was to free himself
unostentatiously and gradually, but nevertheless surely, from the thrall
of his first patron. This resolution, however, was one which it required
more tact and self-government than he yet possessed to reduce to
practice, and accordingly the quick eye of Richelieu soon detected in
the decreased respect of his bearing, and the scantiness of his
communications, the nature of the feelings by which he was actuated.

Nevertheless, the minister was conscious of one advantage over the
self-centred monarch of which he resolved to avail himself in order to
fix the wavering fidelity of the page. Louis, while jealous of the
devotion of those about him, was careless in recompensing their
services; while Richelieu, with a more intimate knowledge of human
nature, and, above all, of the nature of courts, deemed no sacrifice too
great which ensured the stability of his influence, and the fidelity of
his adherents. Thus, affecting not to remark the falling-off of
affection in his agent, he intermingled his discourse to the ambitious
young man with regrets that the monarch had not rewarded his zeal by
some appointment in the royal household which would give him a more
definite position than that which he then held. This was a subject which
never wearied the attention of Cinq-Mars, who with flashing eyes and a
heightened colour listened eagerly; and the Cardinal no sooner perceived
that by his quasi-condolences he had regained in a great degree his
former influence, than he bade the page serve him faithfully, and he
would himself atone for the negligence of the King. Nor was the promise
an idle one, as within the short space of two years he caused the new
favourite to be appointed both Master of the Wardrobe and Grand Equerry.

This promotion proved, however, too rapid for the vanity of Cinq-Mars:
who no sooner saw himself in a position so brilliant as to excite the
envy of half the Court than, with a self-confidence fatal to the
interests of Richelieu, he once more sought deliverance from the yoke of
his priest-patron, and devoted himself so earnestly to the service of
Louis that ere long the King found his companionship indispensable. When
by chance he absented himself for a few hours from Fontainebleau, in
order to exchange the monotony of that palace for the dissipation of the
capital, the King no sooner became aware of the fact than after having
impatiently reiterated more than once, "Cinq-Mars! Where is Cinq-Mars?"
he despatched a courier to Paris to recall him: and the pleasure-loving
young man was compelled to return upon the instant to attend his royal
master in a stag-hunt, or to parade his satins and velvets among the
hounds whom Louis delighted to feed and fondle; until he began to be
weary of the honours which he had so lately coveted, and to sigh for
unrestrained intercourse with his former associates.

With still less patience, however, did he endure the imperious chidings
of the Cardinal, who could not brook that one who owed his advancement
to his favour should seek to emancipate himself from his control; and
the spoiled child of fortune, when he occasionally passed from the
perfumed boudoir of some haughty Court beauty by whom he had been
flattered and caressed to the closet of the minister where he was
greeted by a stern brow and the exclamation of "Cinq-Mars, Cinq-Mars,
you are forgetting yourself!" found considerable difficulty in
controlling his impetuosity; but it was even worse when to this rebuke
Richelieu at times added in a contemptuous tone: "Remember to whom you
owe your fortune, and that it will be quite as easy for me to divest you
of the high-sounding titles which have turned your brain as it was to
procure them for you. Be warned, therefore; for if you do not conduct
yourself with more propriety, and evince more respect for my authority,
I will have you turned out of the palace like a lackey."

The constant repetition of these taunts made the impetuous blood of the
haughty youth boil in his veins; while the lingering remnant of
affection which he had hitherto retained for the friend of his father
and his own benefactor became gradually changed to hate, and impelled
him to redouble his zeal about the person of the sovereign, in order
that he might one day secure sufficient influence over the latter's mind
to enable him to revenge the insults offered to his pride.

At this precise period Cinq-Mars--who, had he not been brought into
close contact with a more matured and stronger mind than his own, would
in all probability have frittered away his vengeance in petty and
puerile annoyances which would rather have worried than alarmed the
Cardinal--formed a fast friendship with Francois Auguste de Thou, who
had long ceased to conceal his hatred of the minister. In the study of
his father, the celebrated historian, M. de Thou had learned to feel an
innate contempt for all constituted authorities, even while he professed
to be at once a Catholic, a royalist, and a patriot; but, unlike his
father, the young scholar was not satisfied with theories; he required
active employment for the extraordinary energies with which he was
gifted; and abandoning the literary leisure in which the elder De Thou
so much delighted, he became in early manhood commissary of the army of
the Cardinal de la Valette during his Italian campaign, and subsequently
he was appointed Councillor of State, and principal librarian to the
King. With his peculiar principles, De Thou could not do otherwise than
deprecate and detest the overwhelming power of Richelieu; and long ere
he crossed the path of Cinq-Mars, he had entered into several cabals
against the minister, a fact which had no sooner been ascertained by the
Cardinal than he deprived him of his public offices, and thus rendered
his animosity more resolute than ever. It was in this temper of mind
that De Thou met the Grand Equerry; nor was it long ere the wild visions
of Cinq-Mars's passion were fashioned into probability by the logical
arguments of his new acquaintance; a circumstance of which he no sooner
became convinced than he forthwith resolved not to suffer his
indignation to vent itself in mere annoyance, but to seek some more
noble and enduring vengeance.

Thenceforward the two friends became inseparable; and when De Thou at
length hinted that Cinq-Mars would in all probability, from his great
favour with the sovereign, become the successor of Richelieu in the
event of his dismissal, the Equerry sprang at once from a peevish and
mortified boy into a resolute and daring conspirator, and his first care
was to secure the co-operation of his kinsman the Duc de Bouillon; who,
while auguring favourably of the plot, and pledging himself to
strengthen it by his own participation, represented to his young
relative the absolute necessity of obtaining the support of Monsieur.

Gaston had withdrawn from the Court after the birth of the two Princes;
and although he had, with his usual pusillanimity, continued to preserve
an apparently good understanding with the Cardinal, few were deceived
into the belief that this ostensible oblivion of the past was genuine.
Monsieur was, when the subject of the new cabal against Richelieu was
mooted to him by Cinq-Mars, residing in the Luxembourg (known at that
period as the Palais d'Orleans), whither the Grand Equerry was
accustomed to repair in disguise, and generally during the night, to
concert with the Prince all the preliminaries of the conspiracy. Gaston,
as had been anticipated, evinced no indisposition to lend himself to the
views of Cinq-Mars and his friends,[235] when they eventually assured
him that they had certain information of the efforts which the Cardinal
was at that very period making to secure his own nomination to the
regency of the kingdom, in the event of the then-pending journey to
Catalonia, whither Louis was about to proceed early in the ensuing
spring, to swear to the inviolate preservation of the ancient laws and
privileges of the Catalans; and at the same time to endeavour to possess
himself of the province of Roussillon, although the infirm state of his
health would have appeared to render such an expedition too hazardous to
be contemplated at such a season.

Like his successor Louis XIV, the son of Marie de Medicis was one of the
most "unamusable" of monarchs; and like Cinq-Mars himself, he was weary
of the unvaried routine of pleasures which made up the sum of his
existence while confined to his own capital; and thus he welcomed every
prospect of change without caring to investigate the motives of those by
whom it was proposed. He did not, therefore, for an instant suspect that
the motive of his ambitious minister in urging him to undertake upon the
instant, and in a state of excessive bodily suffering, an expedition
which might with safety have been deferred until a more genial season,
was in reality to remove him to a distance from the Parliament and the
citizens of Paris, and to place him between two armies, both of which
were commanded by Richelieu's own near relatives and devoted friends,
in order that should the already exhausted strength of the invalid
sovereign fail him under the fatigue and privation of so severe an
exertion, the Cardinal might cause himself to be declared Regent of the
kingdom after his death.

Others were, however, less blind to the real views of the Cardinal,
which were freely canvassed by the courtiers, who looked upon the
expedition with distrust as they studied the plan of the campaign, and
reflected on the measures which were to be adopted for the government of
the country during the absence of the monarch. These were, indeed,
undeniably calculated to awaken their apprehensions; as, acting under
the advice of his minister, Louis had determined that he would be
accompanied on his journey by the Queen and the Duc d'Orleans; that the
Dauphin and the Duc d'Anjou should take up their abode until his return
in the Castle of Vincennes, of which the governor was devoted to the
interests of Richelieu; while the Prince de Conde, who was also his
sworn friend, was appointed to the command of Paris, and authorized, in
conjunction with the Council, whose members were the mere creatures of
his will, to regulate the internal administration of the kingdom.

All these circumstances, amplified, moreover, by ingenious conjectures
and envenomed deductions, Cinq-Mars poured into the willing ear of
Monsieur; and while agents were despatched to Spain and Flanders to
invite the co-operation of those sovereigns, the Grand Equerry continued
his secret visits to the Luxembourg with an impunity that augured well
for the success of the perilous undertaking in which he was embarked;
and which at length emboldened Monsieur to receive in like manner the
emissaries of Ferdinand and Philip. These nocturnal movements were not,
however, so unobserved as the conspirators had believed; and the result
of the suspicions which they engendered is so quaintly narrated by
Rambure that we shall give it in the identical words of the garrulous
old chronicler himself:

"One evening," he says, "when I was in the buttery of the Cardinal,
where I was eating some sweetmeats, his Eminence entered and asked for a
draught of strawberry syrup. While he was drinking it the Comte de
Rochefort arrived in his turn, and informed him that during the
preceding night, as he was passing the Palace of the Luxembourg, he saw
a man come out whom he instantly recognized as a certain Florent Radbod
whom he had formerly met at Brussels, and whom he knew to have been
frequently employed in secret matters of state. The lateness of the
hour, which was, as he further stated, two in the morning, led him to
believe that an individual of this description would not be there save
for some important reason.

"'You were very wrong not to follow him,' said his Eminence.

"'I did so,' replied M. de Rochefort; 'but he was on his guard, and soon
perceived that he was dogged. Therefore, thinking it better not to
excite his suspicions, I turned aside and left him.'

"'You did well,' said Richelieu; 'but what description of person is this
Radbod? What is his age? his complexion? his height? Tell me every
particular by which he may be recognized. M. de Rambure, have you your
pencil about you?'

"'I have my tablets, Monseigneur.'

"'Write down then without loss of time,' said the Cardinal, 'the
portrait of this man.'

"I immediately obeyed, and my task was no sooner completed than his
Eminence gave orders that at every post-house where carriages could be
hired notice should be instantly given to himself if a person answering
the description should endeavour to secure the means of leaving Paris.
He also stationed men at every avenue leading from the city, who were to
watch night and day, lest he might escape in the coach of an
acquaintance. On the following morning his Eminence sent to summon me an
hour before dawn, and I was surprised on my arrival to find him pacing
his chamber in his dressing-gown.

"'Rambure,' he said as I entered, 'I confess to you that I suspect some
conspiracy is on foot against the King, the state, and myself; and,
moreover, if I am not deceived, it is organizing at the Luxembourg with
the consent and connivance of the Duc d'Orleans; but as this is mere
suspicion, I am anxious, in order to see my way more clearly, to place
some confidential person as a sentinel near the palace to watch who goes
in and out.'

"After having hesitated for a time, I told his Eminence that I was
willing to undertake the adventure, and quite ready to obey
his commands.

"'I have faith in you, M. de Rambure,' said the Cardinal; 'I am
perfectly convinced of the affection which you bear, not only towards
the King and the state, but also towards myself; but I have determined
to desire M. de Rochefort to disguise himself as a cripple, and to take
up his position in front of the Luxembourg, where he must remain day and
night until he has discovered whether it were really the Fleming that
he saw.'

"Then, summoning a page who was waiting in the antechamber, his Eminence
sent for M. de Rochefort, who was not long in coming; and told him what
he proposed. Rochefort, who was always ready to comply with every wish
of the Cardinal, immediately declared his willingness to play the part
assigned to him; and a trusty person who had attended him to the
apartment of Monseigneur was instructed to procure without loss of time,
and with the greatest secrecy, a pair of crutches, a suit of rags, and
all the articles necessary to complete the metamorphosis.

"His Eminence having, on the return of the lackey, expressed his desire
to witness the effect of the disguise, M. de Rochefort retired to
another chamber, where, with the assistance of his servant, he exchanged
his velvet vest and satin haut-de-chausses for the foul garb of a
mendicant; this done, he smeared his face with dirt, and crouching down
in a corner, he requested me to announce to Monseigneur that he was
ready to receive him. His Eminence was astonished at his appearance, as
well as to see him act the character he had assumed as if he had studied
and practised it all his life. He told him to set forth, and that if he
succeeded in his attempt he would render him the greatest service which
he had ever received.

"As soon as the Cardinal had taken leave of Rochefort, he said to me:
'In the disguise the Count has on, and when he is crouched upon his
dunghill like a miserable cripple, it will be easy for him to look every
one in the face; and I hope he will make some discovery of that which
troubles me.' His Eminence then told me that he wanted my valet, to
place him in disguise in another direction. I therefore called him. He
was a very sharp fellow at everything that was required of him; and the
Cardinal made him put on a shabby cassock, with a false beard of
grizzled hair and eyebrows to match, which were all fastened on with a
certain liquid so firmly to the skin that it was necessary to apply
vinegar in which the ashes of vine-twigs had been steeped, when they
instantly fell off. My Basque was at length dressed in a torn,
threadbare cassock, masked by his false beard, with an old hat upon his
head, a breviary under his arm, and a tolerably thick stick in his hand,
and received an order to post himself near the little gate of the
Luxembourg stables. The Cardinal then desired me not to leave him, as he
had certain orders to give me which he could not entrust to every one on
such an occasion.

"M. de Rochefort took up his station at the corner of the Rue de
Tournon, laid himself down on a heap of manure, and began, with his face
covered with mud and filth, to cry out continually and dolefully as if
he had been in agony and want; and he played his part so naturally that
several charitable folks were touched by his misery and gave him alms.
From his dunghill he saw numbers of carriages pass and repass, and he
began to be afraid that his prey would escape him. He consequently
resolved to approach nearer to the gates of the palace, where his
intolerable groans so harassed the Swiss guards of Monsieur that they
threatened to drive him away, but upon his promise to be more quiet they
permitted him to remain. He continued patiently at his post for three
days and three nights without seeing anything to justify the suspicions
of the Cardinal, and I was careful to visit him at intervals in order to
receive his report; but when I found that so much time had been lost, I
began to think that the Fleming would not, in all probability, enter the
palace by the gate facing the Carmelite Convent, and Rochefort agreeing
with me on this point, he resolved to change his station. The very same
night he saw him arrive, and let himself in with a key that he carried
about him; and an hour afterwards he observed another man stop at the
same door, and enter by the same means. He was wrapped in a cloak so
that the Count could not recognize him; but he desired my valet, who was
not far off at the time, to follow him when he came out, by which means
we ascertained that the individual who was thus tracked to his own
residence was the Grand Equerry of France, M. de Cinq-Mars; while
before the end of another week we discovered Radbod in the same
manner." [236]

Were not this incident recorded by one of the actors in the adventure,
it would have been impossible to have related it with any faith in its
veracity; as, assuredly, never was the meaning of "secret service"
defined more broadly or more unblushingly than in the instance of the
sycophantic courtier who divested himself of his brilliant attire to don
the tatters of a beggar, and exchanged his velvet-covered couch for the
manure-heap of a city street; while as little would it be credited that
any man in power would venture to suggest so revolting an expedient to
an individual of high birth and position, the companion of princes, and
the associate of Court ladies. Nor is it the least singular feature of
the tale that the chronicler by whom it is told indulges in no
expression of disgust, either at the indelicate selfishness of
Richelieu, or the undignified complaisance of his adherent; although he
evidently seeks to infer that the Cardinal did not venture to request so
monstrous a concession from himself; and dwells with such palpable
enjoyment upon all the details of Rochefort's overweening condescension,
that it is easy to detect his dread of being suspected by his readers of
an equal amount of disgraceful self-abnegation.

The arrest and subsequent execution of the ill-fated Cinq-Mars and his
friend M. de Thou, together with the cowardly policy of Monsieur, who
no sooner found his treason discovered than he once more wrote to demand
his pardon from the King, and to renew his promises of future loyalty
and devotion,[237] are circumstances of such universal notoriety that we
shall not permit ourselves to enlarge upon them. It must suffice,
therefore, to say that this new peril had merely served to increase
alike the bodily suffering and the irascibility of Richelieu, who, even
on the very brink of the grave, was indulging in schemes of vengeance.
He saw on all sides only enemies armed against his life; and by a
supreme effort, to which a less vigorous intellect than his own must
have proved unequal, he rallied all the failing energies of nature to
pay back the universal debt of hatred which he was conscious that he
had incurred.

Such was the temper of his mind while the unfortunate Queen-mother was
yet dreaming of a reconciliation with her son, and an old age of honour
in her adopted country, through the agency of Rubens; but her still
sanguine spirit had betrayed her into forgetting the fact that the dying
tiger tears and rends its victim the most pitilessly in its death-agony;
and this was the case with the rapidly sinking minister, who was no
sooner apprised of the arrival of the painter-prince in the capital than
he despatched a letter to Philip of Spain to urge him to demand the
presence of Rubens on the instant at Madrid, and to detain him in that
city until he should hear further from himself. The request of so
dangerous an adversary as Richelieu was a command to Philip, who
hastened to invite the illustrious Fleming to his Court with all speed,
upon an affair of the most pressing nature; and when Rubens would have
lingered in order to fulfil a mission which he considered as sacred, he
was met by the declaration that Louis desired to defer the audience
which he had already conceded until after the return of the Maestro from
the Spanish capital. With a heavy heart Rubens accordingly left Paris,
aware that this temporary banishment was the work of the vindictive
Cardinal, who was thus depriving his unhappy benefactress of the last
friend on earth who had the courage to defend her cause; but as he drove
through the city gates he was far from anticipating that his freedom of
action was to be trammelled for an indefinite period, and that he was in
fact about to become the temporary prisoner of Philip IV.

Nor was the persevering cruelty of Richelieu yet satiated; he knew by
his emissaries that the end of Marie de Medicis was rapidly approaching,
but he was also aware that through the generous sympathy of Charles of
England and the King of Spain she was still in the receipt of a
sufficient income to ensure her comparative comfort; and even this was
too much for him to concede to the mistress whom he had betrayed; thus,
only a few months elapsed ere the pensions hitherto accorded to the
persecuted Princess were withheld by both monarchs[238]; who, in their
terror of the formidable Cardinal, suffered themselves to overlook their
duty and their loyalty to a woman and a Queen, and their affection
towards the mother of their respective consorts.

Overwhelmed by this new misfortune, Marie de Medicis found herself
reduced to the greatest extremity. Unable to liquidate the salaries of
those members of her household who had accompanied her into exile, she
was abandoned by many among them; while the few jewels which she had
hitherto retained were gradually disposed of in order to support those
who still clung with fidelity to her fallen fortunes; but even this
resource at length failed; and during the winter months, unable any
longer to purchase fuel, she was compelled to permit her attendants to
break up all such articles of furniture as could be made available for
that purpose.[239]

This extreme of wretchedness, however, which would have sufficed to
exhaust the most robust health and the most vigorous youth, was rapidly
sapping the toil-worn and tortured existence of Marie de Medicis; and,
aware that she had nearly reached the term of her sufferings, on the 2nd
of July 1642 she executed a will which is still preserved in the royal
library of Paris,[240] wherein she expressed her confidence that Louis
XIII would cause the mortuary ceremonies consequent upon her decease to
be solemnized in a manner befitting her dignity as Queen of France; and
bequeathed certain legacies to her servants, and to the several
charitable institutions of Cologne. This duty performed, she consented
at the entreaty of her attendants to undergo a painful operation, and to
submit to such remedies as were likely to prove most efficient, although
she herself expressed a conviction of their utter uselessness. She then
received the last sacraments of the church; tenderly embraced those who
stood about her; and after a violent accession of fever, expired at
mid-day on the morrow, with the breath of prayer upon her lips.[241]
Once or twice, blent with the pious outpourings of her departing spirit,
her attendants had distinguished the name of her son--of that son by
whom she had been abandoned to penury; and on each occasion a shade of
pain passed across her wasted features. Her maternal love did not yield
even to bodily agony; but the struggle was brief. Her eyes closed, her
breath suddenly failed: and all was over.

Thus perished, in a squalid chamber, between four bare walls--her utter
destitution having, as we have already stated, driven her to the
frightful alternative of denuding the very apartment which was destined
to witness her death-agony of every combustible article that it
contained, in order by such means to prepare the scanty meal that she
could still command--and on a wretched bed which one of her own lackeys
would, in her period of power, have disdained to occupy; childless, or
worse than childless; homeless, hopeless, and heart-wrung, the haughty
daughter of the Medici--the brilliant Regent of France; the patroness of
art; the dispenser of honours; and the mother of a long line of princes.

Surely history presents but few such catastrophes as this. The soul
sickens as it traces to its close the career of this unhappy and
persecuted Princess. Whatever were her faults, they were indeed bitterly
expiated. As a wife she was outraged and neglected; as a Queen she was
subjected to the insults of the arrogant favourites of a dissolute
Court; as a Regent she was trammelled and betrayed; the whole of her
public life was one long chain of disappointment, heart-burning, and
unrest; while as a woman, she was fated to endure such misery as can
fall to the lot of few in this world.

The remains of the ill-fated Marie de Medicis were, in a few hours after
her decease, transported to the Cathedral of Cologne, where they lay in
state an entire week, during which period Rosetti, the Papal Nuncio,
whose dread of Richelieu had caused him to absent himself from the dying
bed, as he had previously done from the wretched home, of the persecuted
Princess, each day performed a funeral service for the repose of her
soul. Her heart was, by her express desire, conveyed to the Convent of
La Fleche; while her body was ultimately transported to France and
deposited in the royal vaults of St. Denis.

The widow of Henri IV had at last found peace in the bosom of her God;
and she had been so long an exile from her adopted country that the
circumstances of her death were matter rather of curiosity than of
regret throughout the kingdom.

The King was apprised of her demise as he was returning from Tarascon,
where he had been visiting the Cardinal, who was then labouring under
the severe indisposition which, five months subsequently, terminated in
his own dissolution. For the space of four days Louis XIII abandoned
himself to the most violent grief, but at the expiration of that period
he suffered himself to be consoled; while Richelieu, who, even when
persecuting the Queen-mother to the death, had always asserted his
reverence for, and gratitude towards, his benefactress, caused a
magnificent service to be performed in her behalf in the
collegiate church.

Tardy were the lamentations, and tardy the orisons, which reached not
the dull ear of the dead in the gloomy depths of the regal Abbey.

FOOTNOTES:

[225] MSS. de Colbert, Bibliotheque du Roi.

[226] Le Vassor, vol. ix. pp. 121-125. Le Clerc, vol. ii. pp. 352-357,
Mezeray, vol. xi. pp. 500, 501.

[227] Hume, vol. v. p. 25.

[228] Rushworth, vol. v. p. 267.

[229] Le Vassor, vol. x. pp. 591, 592. Sismondi, vol. xxiii. pp. 457,
458. Le Clerc, vol. ii. pp. 495, 496. Rambure, MS. _Mem_. vol. xix.
p. 518.

[230] In 1634, after the demise of the Marquis d'Ayetona, Philip of
Spain conferred upon his brother Ferdinand, Cardinal-Archbishop of
Toledo, the appointment of Governor-General of the Netherlands, which he
held until his death, which took place at Brussels on the 9th of
November 1641, when he was succeeded by Don Francisco de Mello, a
nobleman who had rendered himself conspicuous by defeating the Marechal
de Guiche at Hannecourt. Subsequently, however, De Mello tarnished his
military reputation at the famous battle of Rocroy, where he was utterly
worsted by the young Duc d'Enghien, who had only just attained his
twenty-first year, and who was afterwards known as the Great Conde.

[231] Mezeray, vol. xi. p. 540.

[232] Mezeray, vol. xi. pp. 541, 542. Le Clerc, vol. ii. pp. 496-519.
Aubery, vol. ii. p. 736. Siri, _Mem. Rec_. vol. ii. p. 15.

[233] Claude de Rouvroy, Sieur de Saint-Simon, was the descendant of a
family of Vermandois in Picardy. His relative Isaac de Rouvroy resigned
in his favour (in 1635) the paternal estate, which, when he became the
favourite of Louis XIII, that monarch erected into a duchy in
his favour.

[234] Henri Coiffier Ruze-d'Effiat, Marquis de Cinq-Mars, was the second
son of Antoine Coiffier, Marquis d'Effiat, Marechal de France.

[235] Siri, _Mem. Rec_. vol. ii. p. 571.

[236] Rambure, Unpublished MS. vol. xx. pp. 6-13.

[237] Montresor, _Mem_. p. 162. Le Clerc, vol. ii. pp. 543-562. Mezeray,
vol. xi. pp. 544-552. Capefigue, vol. ii. pp. 99-125.

[238] Sismondi, vol. xxiii. p. 510.

[239] Dreux du Radier, vol. v. pp. 258, 259.

[240] MS. Dupuy, vol. 590.

[241] Le Vassor, vol. x. book 1. p. 589. Capefigue, vol. vi. pp. 121,
122. Sismondi, vol. xxiii. pp. 509, 510. Le Clerc, vol. ii. p. 558.
Mezeray, vol. xi. p. 542.

END OF VOLUME III

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