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

Part 7 out of 7

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An immense crowd had collected on the quay of the Louvre to see her
pass; but, contrary to the apprehensions of her friends, not a word of
insult or reproach was uttered. There was something so appalling even to
the most reckless in her sudden fall; something so sad in this gorgeous
procession which seemed rather to mock than to honour her misfortunes;
so sharp and bitter a lesson in the spectacle of a Princess lately
all-powerful thus driven from her palace-home to immure herself in a
fortress, and this too in broad daylight, under the eyes of her
subjects, and in the streets of the capital, that she excited the
involuntary sympathy even of her enemies.

This sympathy was, however, unfelt by her son; who no sooner became
aware that she was about to enter her carriage than he hurried to the
balcony of the Queen's apartment, whence he attentively watched the
departure of the _cortege_, manifesting the most lively interest in the
preliminary arrangements; and as the last equipage disappeared, he
returned to the room saying gaily: "Now then, gentlemen, we will start
for Vincennes."

Some minutes afterwards, the palace resounded with the voices of
ushers, pages, and men-at-arms; a dozen carriages rolled into the Court;
the King paid a farewell visit to his dogs, his birds, and his wife; and
then, desiring that the Queen and her ladies should follow him on the
morrow, he left orders that the Louvre should be minutely searched
throughout, in order to ascertain beyond all possibility of doubt that
no gunpowder had been concealed within the edifice for the purpose of
effecting his destruction; after which he sprang into his coach, with an
undisguised cheerfulness which left no doubt that his affected respect
and attachment for his mother were by no means incompatible with a
hearty sense of relief at his emancipation from her control.[307]

The Marechale d'Ancre had been committed to the Bastille on the 29th of
April, lightly dressed, despoiled of all her ornaments, and without the
most trifling pecuniary resource; so thoroughly destitute, indeed, of
the common necessaries of life that she was indebted to Madame Persan,
the wife of the lieutenant of the fortress, for a couple of changes of
body-linen. Even the Prince de Conde, who was professedly her enemy, was
deeply moved when he ascertained her pitiable condition. "It was not to
Leonora that political crimes should be attributed," he said, with an
indignation which did honour to his heart; "but to the insatiable
ambition of her husband."

Her only attendants were an Italian maid and her apothecary, whose
constant care was required from the precarious state both of her bodily
and mental health; but she nevertheless maintained a self-command and
composure which astonished all by whom she was approached. She uttered
no complaint; exhibited no resentment; and in reply to the condolences
of her gaolers, simply replied: "I must have patience; my enemies are
powerful, the Queen-mother is absent, and no doubt I shall be compelled
to leave France. I will retire with my son to Florence; we have still
the means of subsistence, and I must endeavour to forget the past."

Some days subsequently her women succeeded in conveying to her a few
changes of apparel and two hundred crowns in money; but when, on the
11th of May, she was transferred to the prison of the Conciergerie,
these effects were in their turn stolen from her, and she once more
found herself totally penniless. In addition to this misfortune she was
apprised that she could no longer be permitted to retain her attendants,
as the regulations of a felon prison did not admit of such an
indulgence; and on hearing this, she said with a cry of agony: "I
am lost!"

The Court remained a fortnight at Vincennes, after which the King
returned to the Louvre. There, instead of endeavouring, according to the
sage advice of his ministers, to render the absence of his mother
unfelt by the adoption of measures calculated to prove that he was equal
to the responsibility which he had been so eager to assume, he soon
returned to the puerile amusements he had latterly affected to despise;
and spent the day in colouring prints, beating a drum, blowing a bugle,
or making _jets d'eau_ with quills.[308] On one occasion when
Bassompierre was complimenting him upon the facility with which he
acquired everything that he desired to learn, he replied with great
complacency: "I must begin again with my hunting-horn, which I blow very
well; and I will practise for a whole day."

"Be careful, Sire," was the reply of the courtier; "I would not advise
your Majesty to indulge too much in such a diversion, as it is injurious
to the chest; and I have even heard it asserted that the late King
Charles IX burst a blood-vessel on the lungs from his abuse of that
instrument; an accident which terminated his life."

"You are wrong, Sir," said Louis with one of his cold saturnine looks;
"it was his quarrel with Catherine de Medicis which caused his death. If
he had not followed the bad advice of the Marechal de Retz, and resided
with her subsequently at Monceaux, he would not have died so young."

Bassompierre was silenced; and thenceforward resolved never again to
mention the name of the Queen-mother in the presence of his royal

Meanwhile it was universally anticipated that as all the other Princes
had been restored to favour, M. de Conde would be liberated; but such a
measure by no means accorded with the views of De Luynes, who, aware of
the influence of the noble prisoner, felt himself too weak to cope
openly with the first Prince of the Blood; and, consequently, the only
benefit which Conde derived from the death of the Marechal d'Ancre was a
mitigation of the extreme vigilance with which he had hitherto been
guarded. The conduct of the Princess his wife was at this juncture above
all praise. She had, from the first period of his imprisonment, been
persevering in her efforts to accomplish his liberation; and having
failed to do this, had solicited the permission of the King to share his
captivity; but, by the advice of his favourite, Louis had hitherto
resolutely refused to accede to such an arrangement; although he might
justly have been struck by the heroism of a sacrifice which in her case
was heightened tenfold by the fact that, despite the jealousy which he
had constantly exhibited, M. de Conde had made no secret of his utter
indifference to his wife, and would never forgive her relations with
Henri IV. After the departure of the Queen-mother, however, De Luynes
judged it expedient to accept the offer of the Princess; and she was
accordingly informed that she might proceed to the Louvre, where the
King would grant her an audience. She had no sooner received this
permission than she hastened, accompanied by the Duchesse d'Angouleme
her sister, to throw herself at the feet of the young sovereign; where,
bathed in tears, she sobbed out her acknowledgment of the indulgence
extended to her, and implored him to extend his clemency to the Prince
her husband. "But should you unhappily consider it expedient to detain
him in the Bastille, Sire," she concluded with deep emotion, "I entreat
of your Majesty to allow me to share his prison."

"Madame," replied Louis, "it was already my intention so to do. I am
sincerely attached to M. de Conde, and to all his house; and every
attention shall be paid to him until my government is perfectly
established. I greatly regret that at the present moment I am prevented
by circumstances from restoring him to liberty; but assure him from me
that I will cause his liberation at the earliest opportunity."

Again and again did the delighted Princess utter her thanks; and after
having been graciously dismissed by the King, she lost not a moment in
proceeding, armed with the royal authority, to the Bastille, where,
having constituted herself a prisoner, she hastened to impart her
hopeful tidings to the Prince.

Despite the assurances which she had received, however, from the lips of
Louis himself, four more weary months were passed by M. and Madame de
Conde in the fortress, in that daily and hourly fever of expectation
which is more agonizing than utter despair; and even at the close of
that dreary time, instead of the liberty for which the husband and wife
alike panted, an order arrived at the Bastille for the transfer of the
deluded and unhappy couple to the Castle of Vincennes, which was
communicated to them as a signal mark of the royal clemency; and in that
citadel they were detained until the autumn of 1619.[310] The result of
Madame de Conde's admirable self-abnegation was, however, a source of
triumph for her woman-heart, as the Prince was not proof against so
unequivocal a demonstration of attachment, and thenceforward evinced
towards her a tenderness which amply repaid her sacrifice.

Shortly after the transfer of Madame d'Ancre to the Conciergerie she was
put upon her trial; but as her mental hallucination, together with her
estrangement from her husband, rendered it probable that sufficient
proof of political delinquency could not be adduced against her to
justify an extreme sentence, and as her escape from the scaffold must
necessarily tend to render his tenure of the confiscated property of
Concini (of which he had already obtained the reversion) difficult, if
not impossible, De Luynes did not hesitate to tamper with her judges,
and to induce them, alike by bribes and threats, to accomplish her
death. For this purpose a second charge was coupled with that of
_lese-majeste_, which was brought conjointly against herself and her
murdered husband. She was accused of sorcery as well as of conspiring
against the state; of casting alike nativities to compass the
destruction of the King, and cannon for the service of the disaffected
Princes; together with a host of other crimes, none of which could be
proved against her. So palpable, indeed, was the motive of her
persecutors, that it excited the popular indignation; and the masses,
who had so recently execrated the name of the unfortunate woman, began,
ere the conclusion of her trial, to look upon her only as the victim of
De Luynes. "You will see," said some of the citizens, as they learnt
with what dignified calmness and logical precision she refuted the
several charges brought against her, "that here the case of the Duc de
Biron will be reversed--like her he was the victim of policy, but he
died like a woman, while she will meet her fate like a man."

And they were correct in their conclusion. Whatever might have been her
faults while she continued the favourite of fortune, Leonora Galigai was
grand in her adversity; and one of her judges was so much overpowered by
his conviction of her innocence, that on recollecting the pledge which
he had given to De Luynes to decide upon her guilt, he fainted and was
carried from the Court. When accused of treason against the state, the
prisoner replied by reminding her accusers of her total estrangement
from her husband during the last two years, throughout which period he
had been all-powerful with the Queen-mother, and her own consequent
loss of influence; and when questioned as to the nature of the sorcery
by which she had so long governed her royal mistress, she answered that
it was simply the magic exercised by a strong mind over a weak one.[311]
To the other charges she responded with equal composure and
conclusiveness; and many among them were of so puerile a character that,
despite the fearful position in which she was placed, she could not
suppress a smile of mingled pity and amusement.

She was foredoomed, however; and on the 8th of July the sentence was
pronounced. It was in truth a frightful one! Both the husband and the
wife were declared guilty of _lese-majeste_ divine and human; and she
herself was condemned to lose her head, and to be afterwards burned;
their house was to be levelled with the ground; their property, not only
in France, but also all that they possessed at Rome and Florence, was to
be confiscated to the Crown; and their son deprived of his rank, and
rendered incapable of holding any office in the kingdom.[312]

When this sentence was declared the wretched woman, who had never
anticipated a more severe fate than exile, exclaimed in a piteous voice:
"Oime poveretta!" but shortly recovering herself, she resumed the same
calm courage which she had previously evinced.

Perhaps the most merciful portion of her sentence was that which
condemned her to suffer on the same day; and for this she was
undoubtedly indebted to the impatience of De Luynes, who did not feel
himself secure of the succession until she should have ceased to
breathe. The revelations which she had made of the extent of her wealth
during the preliminary examinations in the prison had sealed her fate,
as they so far exceeded all his anticipations that they silenced every
throb of compunction and negatived every other feeling; and they thus at
least spared her a night of agony during which she might have brooded
over the miserable prospects of her idolized son.

It is painful to reflect upon the position which the Marquise had
filled, and to see her thus shaken and withered both in mind and body;
abandoned by the protectress to whom she had clung so long and so
confidingly; widowed by violence; separated from her only surviving
child; and compelled to drain her cup of bitterness to the very dregs.
Not a pang was, however, voluntarily spared to her. She might, in
consideration of her rank as the wife of a Marshal of France, and out of
respect for the Queen-mother, of whom she had not only been the
foster-sister but also the familiar friend, have been conveyed to the
place of execution in a covered carriage, and thus have been in some
degree screened from the public gaze; but no such delicacy was observed.
The criminal's cart, with its ghastly faggot for a seat, was her
ordained conveyance; but her step did not falter as she stepped into the
vehicle which had been previously tenanted by the vilest and most
degraded culprits. Never had there been seen so dense a crowd in the
Place de Greve; and as she glanced hurriedly around, unaware of the
popular reaction of feeling, she cowered for an instant panic-struck,
and murmured helplessly: "Oh, what a multitude to gaze upon a
miserable woman!"

Not a word, not a gesture of vengeance or of hate, escaped, however,
from the populace. Her deportment had been so dignified, her courage so
great, her piety so perfect, that those who were once her bitterest
enemies looked on her through their tears. Her charities had been
unremitting and extensive; and those whom she had aided in their
necessities had thronged, through a morbid and mingled feeling of
gratitude and awe, to see her die.[313]

Her head fell--her body was burned--and her ashes were scattered to the

De Luynes had, as we have stated, constituted himself her heir; but it
was not without difficulty that he succeeded in appropriating the
principal portion of the coveted wealth of his victims. Du Vair, with a
firmness for which the favourite was not prepared, refused for a
considerable time to countersign the letters of consignment which had
been granted by the King to that effect; declaring that as the property
of Concini and his family had been confiscated to the Crown, it could
not be otherwise disposed of. This difficulty was, however, surmounted
after the fashion of the period, and the signature of the scrupulous
minister was purchased by the rich bishopric of Lisieux; after which De
Luynes himself negatived the destruction of the magnificent hotel of the
Marechal, to which he transferred his own establishment, and then
proceeded to enforce his claims upon the funded property in Rome. This
pretension was, however, opposed by the Pope, who declared that all
monies confiscated within the Roman states must necessarily revert to
himself; and Louis XIII, after having in vain endeavoured to induce the
Sovereign-Pontiff to rescind this declaration, found himself ultimately
compelled to make a donation of the five hundred thousand francs claimed
by his favourite to the cathedral of St. Peter's.

The Grand Duke of Tuscany, in his turn, refused to recognize the right
of De Luynes to the funds which had been entrusted to him by the
Marechal d'Ancre, but from a higher and a holier motive; as the young
Comte de la Pena was no sooner set at liberty, with an injunction
immediately to leave France, than he received him with all the sympathy
due to his unmerited misfortunes, and put him in possession of this
remnant of his inheritance. Thenceforward the son of Concini remained in
Italy until the year 1631, when he fell a victim to the plague.[314]

Before we quit the Court to follow exclusively the fortunes of Marie de
Medicis, it is necessary that we should record three circumstances of
social interest which occurred during the year 1617. The first in order
is the death of the President de Thou, one of the most able and upright
ministers, and, perhaps, the most conscientious historian that France
had ever known. He expired on the 7th of May. The next, in point of
chronology, is the marriage of De Luynes, who--having obtained the most
absolute power, not only over the King personally, but also over all
state affairs--being anxious to strengthen his position yet more by a
great alliance, after having for a time contemplated an union with the
daughter of the Duc de Vendome, ultimately entered into a negotiation
for the hand of Mademoiselle de Montbazon.[315] This negotiation proved
successful; and through her means he became closely connected with the
most ancient and powerful families in the kingdom. The marriage took
place on the 13th of September, and the bride was admitted to the
honours of the _tabouret_;[316] while in order to render him more
acceptable to the haughty houses into which the favour of his sovereign
had thus afforded him ingress, the exulting favourite was elevated to a
duchy-peerage, and took his seat in the Parliament. The last
circumstance to which allusion has been made is the death of M. de
Villeroy, who terminated his life at the ripe age of seventy-four years
on the 30th of December. As we have already stated, he was possessed of
little education, had no taste for either literature or art, but was
singularly upright and shrewd in the management of public business;
while he was, moreover, so thoroughly disinterested, that in the midst
of all the cupidity which at that period disgraced the Court of France,
after having been fifty-one years in office, he died with the mere
addition of two thousand livres _per annum_ to his patrimonial

In order to enlist popular opinion in his favour, De Luynes had, as we
have seen, induced the King to recall the old ministers to power; and
the people, still remembering the wisdom which they had displayed during
their administration, welcomed with joy the reappearance of Sillery,
Villeroy, and Jeannin in the Council; but although the favourite
ostensibly recognized their privileges, he was far from intending to
permit their interference with his own interests;[318] and so thoroughly
did he enslave the mind of the young King, that while Louis, like a
schoolboy who had played truant, and who was resolved to enjoy his
new-found liberty to the uttermost, was constantly changing his place of
abode, and visiting in turn St. Germain, Fontainebleau,
Villers-Cotterets, and Monceaux, without one care save the mere
amusement of the hour, De Luynes was multiplying his precautions to
prevent a reconciliation between the mother and the son; an event which
must, as he believed, whenever it should occur, prove the ruin of his
own fortunes. For this purpose, so soon as he saw a cloud upon the brow
of the royal stripling, he hastened to devise for him some new and
exciting pursuit, which might tend to deaden his remorse for the past,
and to render him more conscious of the value of that moral emancipation
which he had purchased at so fearful a price; but ere long even this
subtle policy failed to dissipate the apprehensions of the favourite.
Like all persons who occupy a false position of which they fully
appreciate the uncertain tenure, he became suspicious of all around him;
and would not allow any individual, whatever might be his rank, to
approach the King without his knowledge, nor to attempt to converse with
him in private. Thus, therefore, while Louis fondly believed that he had
indeed become a monarch in fact as well as name, he was in reality more
enslaved than ever.

Enriched by the spoils of Concini and his wife, De Luynes next caused
himself to be appointed lieutenant of the King in Normandy; and this was
no sooner done than he entered into a negotiation for one of the
principal governments in the kingdom. He appeared suddenly to have
forgotten that one of the most cogent reasons which he had so lately
given for the necessity of sacrificing the Marechal d'Ancre and his
wife was the enormous wealth of which they had possessed themselves at
the expense of the state. His ambition as well as his avarice became
insatiable; and not contented with pushing his own fortunes to a height
never before attained by a mere petty noble, he procured great
advantages for his brothers, and lodged them in his apartments in the
Louvre. But while Louis remained unconscious or careless of the new
bondage into which he had thus fallen, the courtiers and the people were
alike less blind and less forbearing. With that light-heartedness which
has enabled the French in all ages to find cause for mirth even in their
misfortunes, some wag, less scrupulous than inventive, on one occasion,
under cover of the darkness, affixed above the door leading to the rooms
occupied by the brothers a painting which represented the adoration of
the Magi, beneath which was printed in bold letters, "At the sign of the
Three Kings"; a practical jest which afforded great amusement to the

At this period Louis XIII, still a mere youth, and utterly inexperienced
in those great questions of public policy which determine the prosperity
or the peril of a nation, resolved upon a measure which Henri IV himself
had not ventured to undertake. The Roman Catholic religion had been
abolished in Bearn by Jeanne d'Albret, his grandmother, and the property
of that church seized in virtue of an Act passed at the assembly of the
States; and now, on the demand of his clergy, he determined to issue a
decree ordaining the restitution of all the ecclesiastical property, and
the re-establishment of the Roman faith. This was, of course, resisted
by the Protestants, as well as the annexation of the principality of
Bearn to the Crown of France; but the advisers of the young King
considered the opportunity to be a favourable one for effecting both
measures; and they easily persuaded him to persevere in his purpose. The
edict was consequently published; and its effects were destined to be
painfully felt by the reformed party throughout the remainder of
his reign.

The people, on their side, had not forgotten the promises which they had
received of a reform in the government, and De Luynes still continued to
give them hopes of their accomplishment; but as no measures to that
effect were taken, they, at this period, demanded a new assembly of the
States-General. They were, however, induced to modify this demand; and a
meeting of the _Notables_[320] was finally conceded, which was to take
place at Rouen on the 24th of November, in the presence of the
sovereign. This assembly was accordingly held, but thanks to the
influence of De Luynes produced none of the results which had been

A few days before the departure of Marie de Medicis from Paris the King
of Spain declared war against the Duke of Savoy, who immediately
appealed to France for aid, which was in the first instance refused;
but, on the representations of the Marechal de Lesdiguieres, it was
finally accorded, and troops were raised which proceeded to Piedmont
under the command of that general.[322]

Such was the general aspect of the Court and kingdom of France at the
close of the year 1617; of which we have considered it necessary to
sketch the principal features, in order to remind the reader of the
exact position of the country at the period of the Queen-mother's exile.
Henceforward we shall principally confine ourselves to following her in
her banishment.


[293] The Comte de Fiesque was the equerry of Anne of Austria.

[294] Le Vassor, vol. i. pp. 643, 644. Pontchartrain, _Mem_. p. 223.

[295] Sismondi, vol. xxii. pp. 396, 397. Richelieu, _Mem_. book viii.
pp. 420-428. Rohan, _Mem_. p. 144. Le Vassor, vol. i. pp. 647-649.
Mezeray, vol. xi. p. 139. Richelieu, _Hist, de la Mere et du Fils_ vol.
i. pp. 200-202.

[296] Richelieu, _Hist. de la Mere et du Fils_, vol. i. pp. 202-204.

[297] Siri, _Mem. Rec_. vol. iv. p. 63.

[298] Le Vassor, vol. i. p. 643.

[299] Rohan, _Mem_. book i.

[300] Bassompierre, _Mem_. p. 126. Le Vassor, vol. i. p. 653.

[301] Richelieu, _Hist, de la Mere et du Fils_, vol. i. p. 200.

[302] Deageant, _Mem_. pp. 65, 66.

[303] The dower of the widowed Queens of France was twelve hundred
thousand annual livres.

[304] Mezeray, vol. xi. pp. 140, 141. Le Vassor, vol. i. pp. 655, 656.
Sismondi, vol. xxii. p. 403.

[305] Jean Goujon, a celebrated architect and sculptor, who was surnamed
the Correggio of sculpture from the grace and beauty of his productions.
The finest of his statues was the Hunting Diana, which long formed one
of the treasures of Malmaison. The Fountain of the Innocents, the
bas-reliefs of the Hotel de Carnavalet, and those of the Louvre were
alike the monuments of his genius. He was occupied in completing the
latter when he was killed by the ball of a carbine during the massacre
of St. Bartholomew.

[306] Richelieu, Unpublished MSS.

[307] Sismondi, vol. xxii. pp. 398-404. Bassompierre, _Mem_. pp. 126,
127. Le Vassor, vol. i. pp. 653-659. Mezeray, vol. xi. pp. 137-142.
Brienne, _Mem_. vol. i. pp. 327-329.

[308] Rohan, _Mem_. book i. Le Vassor, vol. i. p. 659.

[309] Bassompierre, _Mem_. p. 128.

[310] Le Vassor, vol. i. p. 666. _Relation de la mort du Marechal
d'Ancre_. Mezeray, vol. xi. pp. 142, 143. Dreux du Radier, vol. vi. pp.
123, 124. Brienne, _Mem_. vol. i. p. 333.

[311] Sismondi, vol. xxii. pp. 407, 408. Le Vassor, vol. i. pp. 667-672.
Richelieu, _Hist, de la Mere et du Fils_, vol. i. pp. 223-230.

[312] This incapacity to hold office under the French Government was,
moreover, on this occasion, declared thenceforward to extend to all
individuals who were natives of other countries; and an attempt was made
thirty years subsequently to render it applicable to Cardinal Mazarin.

[313] Bernard, book iii.

[314] Sismondi, vol. xxii. pp. 410, 411. Le Vassor, vol. i. pp. 674,

[315] Marie de Rohan-Montbazon was the daughter of Hercule de Rohan, Due
de Montbazon, and of his first wife, Madeleine de Lenoncourt. After the
death of the Connetable de Luynes she married Claude de Lorraine, Due de
Chevreuse, and became celebrated towards the close of the reign of Louis
XIII, and during the minority of his successor, for her wit, her beauty,
her profligacy, and her political intrigues. She died at a very advanced
age in the year 1679.

[316] Brienne, _Mm_. vol. i. p. 333.

[317] Le Vassor, vol. i. p. 675. Sismondi, vol. xxii. pp. 430, 431.

[318] D'Hericourt, vol. i. p. 529.

[319] Le Vassor, vol. i. p. 678.

[320] By the _Notables_ was understood a body of the most eminent
individuals among the nobles, the clergy, and the law-officers; and as
these were chosen by the ministers themselves, such an assembly could
excite no apprehension among the Court party.

[321] Mezeray, vol. xi. pp. 144, 145.

[322] Sismondi, vol. xxii. p. 331.


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