Read CHAPTER X of The Life of Marie de Medicis‚ Vol. 3, free online book, by Julia Pardoe, on


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A-propos;” he said, “speaking of the poor woman, certain persons are endeavouring, I understand, to induce her to visit Florence. What do you think of the project?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her reply to the letter of her son ran thus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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