Read CHAPTER IV of The Life of Marie de Medicis‚ Vol. 2, free online book, by Julia Pardoe, on ReadCentral.com.

1611

A cold correspondence-Increasing influence of the Marquis d’Ancre- Animosity between the Duc d’Epernon and Concini-Disunion of the Princes de Guise and de Lorraine-Renewed dissensions between M. de Bellegarde and the Marquis d’Ancre-They are reconciled by the Comte de Soissons-Marriage of the Duc de Guise-Jealousy of M. de Soissons -Quarrel between the Prince de Conti and the Comte de Soissons- Mission of the Duc de Guise-A new rupture-Intervention of the Duc de Mayenne-Alarm of the Regent-Sully leaves Paris-Madame de Sully-Retirement of M. de Thou-Unpopularity of the Duc d’Epernon -Marie de Medicis endeavours to reconcile the Princes-The royal closet-The Protestants prepare for the General Assembly-The Prince de Conde retires to Guienne-The Duc d’Epernon is charged to watch his movements-Arrogance of Concini-Concini seeks to marry his daughter to a son of the Comte de Soissons-Indignation of the Prince-Cunning of Concini-Bouillon returns to Court-He offers his services to the Regent at the General Assembly-He proceeds to Saumur-He desires to be appointed President of the Assembly-He is rejected in favour of M. du Plessis-Mornay-He attributes his defeat to Sully-He resolves to conciliate the ex-Minister of Finance-Meeting of the Assembly-The Court determines to dissolve the meeting-Prudence of Du Plessis-Mornay -Death of M. de Crequy-The Marquis d’Ancre succeeds to the government of Amiens-His insolent disregard of the royal prerogative-Indignation of the ministers-The Regent resents his impertinence-She refuses to receive Madame d’Ancre-Intrigues of the Princesse de Conti-The favourites forgiven-Marie de Medicis issues several salutary edicts-Court festivities-The Duchesse de Lorraine arrives at Fontainebleau-Death of the Duc de Mayenne-Death of the Queen of Spain-The Duchesse de Lorraine claims the hand of Louis XIII for her daughter-Death of the Duc d’Orléans-Departure of the Duchesse de Lorraine-Rival claims-M. de Breves appointed preceptor to the Duc d’Anjou-The Comte de Soissons applies for the duchy of Alençon-Rebuke of the Regent-A hunting-party-A new cabal-Recall of the Marechal de Lesdiguieres-Marie de Medicis purchases the Hotel de Luxembourg.

The first political event worthy of record which occurred in France at the commencement of the year 1611 was the retirement of the Duc de Sully; who, on the 24th of January, received the reply of the Regent to the letter in which he had solicited her permission to withdraw from the Government.  It contained a faintly-expressed regret at the resolution he had taken; “but that,” as he himself says, “was merely for form’s sake;” and the accuracy of his judgment is evidenced by the fact that only two days after he had again written to declare that his determination was unalterable, the Duc de Bouillon delivered to him the official warrants by which he was discharged from his duties of Superintendent of Finance, and Captain of the Bastille.  These were worded in the most flattering terms; and he was guaranteed against all inquiry or annoyance upon either subject from the day in which he resigned his tenure of office.  A third warrant was, moreover, added, by which, in consideration of his past services, the Queen bestowed upon him the sum of three hundred thousand livres; and a few days subsequently he received letters from the King and the Regent authorizing him to transfer the command of the Bastille to M. de Chateauvieux; which he had no sooner done than he turned all his attention to the final arrangement of his public accounts, in order that he might, with as little delay as possible, be enabled to quit the capital.

The transfer of the Bastille was shortly afterwards followed by that of the ministry of finance, which was placed under the joint direction of M. de Chateauneuf and the Presidents de Thou and de Jeannin; the latter of whom was, however, invested with the rank of Comptroller-General, which gave him the entire management of the public funds, to the exclusion of his colleagues, who were in consequence only eligible to assist in the official distribution of the public monies.  The charge of Grand Master of the Artillery, which was resigned with the command of the Bastille by Sully, the Regent retained in her own hands.

From that time the Marquis d’Ancre became pre-eminent at Court; and not only the ministers, but even the Princes of the Blood themselves, looked with distrust upon his power over the Queen.  Between the Italian favourite and the Duc d’Epernon especially, a feeling of hatred had grown up, which, although as yet veiled by the policy for which each was so distinguished, only awaited a fitting opportunity to reveal itself on both sides; and the struggle for power was not the less resolute because it was carried on amid smiles and courtesies.  Meanwhile, also, the Princes de Guise and de Lorraine evinced symptoms of disunion, which threatened the most serious consequences; and amid all this chaos of conflicting interests and passions the royal authority was treated with contempt, and Marie began to tremble for the stability of her regency.

Early in the month Concini entered upon his duties as First Lord of the Bedchamber, and had a serious misunderstanding with the Duc de Bellegarde, who refused to allow him to take possession of the apartments in the Louvre set aside for the person holding that rank during the year in which he was on duty, on the pretext that the Marquise his wife being already lodged in the palace, he had no right to claim any further accommodation.  Concini insisted on the privilege of his office, upon which M. Grand, to whom he had become hateful from his arrogance and pretension, retorted in a manner which excited his temper; and high and bitter words were exchanged that threatened the most serious results, when the Italian, suddenly recollecting that he was exasperating by his violence an enemy too powerful for him to contend against without support, declared that he would pursue the quarrel no further in person, but would place his honour in the hands of the Comte de Soissons, and abide by his decision.  Against such a determination M. de Bellegarde had, of course, nothing to urge; and the Italian forthwith requested the Marquis de Coeuvres, in whom M. de Soissons had great confidence, to represent the affair to that Prince, and to assure him that he would be entirely governed by his advice.

The Duc d’Epernon, delighted to find that Concini had made a new enemy, strenuously exerted himself to induce M. Grand to maintain his ground, a counsel which the latter was well disposed to follow; but the Comte de Soissons, who was anxious to secure the influence of the Italian Marquis that he might the more readily effect the marriage of his son, eagerly embraced so favourable an opportunity of purchasing his good offices; and consequently represented in stringent terms to his opponent the utter impracticability of refusing to concede to M. d’Ancre the same consideration and indulgence which had been enjoyed by his predecessors in office, together with the danger that he personally incurred by so gratuitously offending an individual protected by the Regent.  Whatever additional arguments he may have advanced, it is impossible to decide; suffice it that the Duke yielded, the quarrel was terminated, and Concini established in the coveted apartments; at which his gratification was so unmeasured that he pledged himself to M. de Soissons to induce the ministers to consent to the union of the Comte d’Enghien with the heiress of Montpensier, as well as to exert himself in preventing the marriage of the Duc de Guise and the Duchess her mother.

On the 5th of January the marriage of the Duc de Guise and the Duchesse de Montpensier was, however, celebrated by the Cardinal de Joyeuse at the early hour of four in the morning, in the chapel attached to the hotel of the lady; an arrangement which was in all probability caused by the opposition made to this alliance by the Comte de Soissons, who, still anticipating a union between his son and the daughter of the Duchess, was apprehensive that Madame de Montpensier might be induced to enrich the family of which she thus became a member with no inconsiderable portion of the wealth which must otherwise form part of the property of the young heiress.

Only three days subsequently, while the Court were still occupied with the festivities which took place on the occasion, the Prince de Conti and his brother M. de Soissons, who was on his way to the Louvre, unfortunately met in a narrow street leading to the Cross of Trahoir, when it had become so dark that it was impossible to distinguish the appointments or liveries of either equipage; and the carriages were no sooner entangled than the coachman of the Comte, ignorant of the rank of his opponent, compelled the servants of the Prince to make way, an insult which he resented with a bitterness that induced him to refuse the apology subsequently proffered by his brother.

Alarmed by this new feud, the Queen requested the Duc de Guise to see the Prince de Conti, and to beseech him to effect a reconciliation with his turbulent brother, a mission which the young Duke cheerfully undertook; but it unfortunately happened that in order to reach the Abbey of St. Germain, where M. de Conti was then residing, it was necessary for him to pass beside the Hotel de Soissons, which he accordingly did, followed by a retinue of thirty horsemen.  This circumstance was construed into a premeditated insult by the Count, who immediately assembled his friends, and informed them that he had been braved in his own house by the Duc de Guise; whose adherents had no sooner ascertained that there was an assemblage hostile to his interests forming at the Hotel de Soissons, than they in their turn flocked in such numbers to afford him their support that in a short time more than a thousand nobles were collected under his roof.

When this fact was communicated to M. de Soissons he sent to request that the Prince de Conde would accompany him to the Louvre, to demand from the Regent that she should afford them satisfaction for the insolence of the Duc de Guise; who, when summoned to explain his motives for inflicting an affront upon the Count, simply and calmly replied that he had never sought to insult M. de Soissons; but had, in obedience to the command of her Majesty, been compelled to pass an angle of his hotel, which he had moreover done without a demonstration of any description, and accompanied only by the escort suitable to his rank.  That his sincere anxiety had been to second the wishes of her Majesty; and that so far from seeking to envenom an unfortunate misunderstanding which could only tend to involve the Court in new disorder, he had from the first moment resolved not to offer an opinion upon the merits of the feud; a determination to which he still meant to adhere.

This manly declaration in no degree softened the ire of the Count; who, enchanted at having discovered an opportunity of annoying and harassing M. de Guise during the first week of his marriage, retorted in a manner which impelled the Queen to request that each would retire to his hotel; and to express at the same time her earnest hope that a little calm reflection would induce the disputants to become reconciled.

The quarrel was nevertheless sustained throughout the whole of that and the following day; and so great was the commotion which it excited in the capital that the Regent, apprehending its result, considered it necessary to order that chains should be in readiness to be stretched across the streets, and that the citizens should be prepared to take up arms at a moment’s notice.  On the morrow new efforts were made to pacify the irritated parties, but all having alike failed, a detachment of the royal guard was stationed near the person of each of the Princes in order to ensure his safety.

Meanwhile the Queen requested of M. de Guise, by a confidential messenger, that he would wait upon the Comte de Soissons, and apologize for having inadvertently given him offence; a proposition to which he readily consented; feeling that such was in reality the case, and that the rank of the Count as a Prince of the Blood demanded this concession.  Previously, however, to putting his design into execution, he informed the Duc de Mayenne of the promise which he had made to comply with the desire of the Regent, when he was instantly and vehemently dissuaded from his purpose; M. de Mayenne representing that being himself the party aggrieved by the groundless accusation brought against him, he could not, without impairing the dignity due to his position, personally declare his regret for an act which he had never committed.  He then counselled the Duke to place the affair in his hands, alleging with a sophistry which it is difficult to reconcile with reason that an apology made for him, instead of by him, would at once answer every purpose, and spare his own pride.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You are a philosopher,” said the Italian sarcastically.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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