prison," replied the Duke.
The sound of a horse ridden at top-speed came up from the
gate. The two Princes went to the window, and by the light
of the gatekeeper's torch and of the cresset that was always
burning under the gateway, the Duke recognized in the
rider's hat the famous cross of Lorraine, which the Cardinal
had made the badge of their partisans.
He sent one of the
men-at-arms, who stood in the ante-room, to say that the
newcomer was to be admitted ; and he went to the head of the
stairs to meet him, followed by his brother.
"What is the news, my dear Simeuse?" asked the Duke,
with the charming manner he always had for a soldier, as
he recognized the Commandant of Gien.
"The Connetable is entering Pithiviers; he left flcouen
with fifteen hundred horse and a hundred gentlemen "
"Have they any following?" said the Duke.
"Yes, monseigneur," replied Simeuse. "There are two
thousand six hundred of them in all. Some say that There
is behind with a troop of infantry. If Montmorency amuses
himself with waiting for his son, you have time before you
to undo him."
"And is that all you know? Are his motives for this rush
to arms commonly reported ?"
"Anne speaks as little as he writes ; do you go and meet
him, brother, while I will greet him here with his nephew's
head," said the Cardinal, ordering an attendant to fetch
"Vieilleville," cried the Duke to the Marshal, who came
178 ABOUT CATHERINE DE' MEDICI
in, "the Connetable de Montmorency has dared to take up
arms. If I go out to meet him, will you be responsible for
keeping order in the town?"
"The instant you are out of it, the townsfolk will rise ; and
who can foresee the issue of a fray between horsemen and
citizens in such narrow streets ?" replied the Marshal.
"My Lord !" said Eobertet, flying up the stairs, "the Chan-
cellor is at the gates, and insists on coming in ; are we to ad-
mit him ?"
"Yes, admit him," said the Cardinal de Lorraine. "The
Constable and the Chancellor together would be too danger-
ous ; we must keep them apart. We were finely tricked by the
Queen-mother when we elected I'Hopital to that office."
Eobertet nodded to a captain who awaited the reply at the
foot of the stairs, and returned quickly to take the Cardinal's
"My Lord," said he, making a last effort, "I take the
liberty of representing to you that the sentence requires the
approval of the King in Council. If you violate the law for
a Prince of the Blood, it will not be respected in favor of a
Cardinal or of a Due de Guise."
"Pinard has disturbed your mind, Eobertet," said the Car-
dinal sternly. "Do you not know that the King signed the
warrant on the day when he went out, leaving it to us to
carry it out ?"
"Though you are almost requiring my head of me when
you give me this dut}' — which, however, will be that of the
town-provost — I obey, my Lord."
The Grand Master heard the debate without wincing;
but he took his brother by the arm, and led him to a corner
of the hall.
"Of course," said he, "the direct heirs of Charlemagne
have the right to take back the crown which was snatched
from their family by Ungues Capet; but — can they? The
pear is not ripe. — Our nephew is dying, and all the Court is
gone over to the King of Navarre."
"The King's heart failed him: but for that, the Bearnais
ABOUT CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 179
would have been stabbed/' replied the Cardinal, "and we
could easily have disposed of the children."
"We are in a bad position here," said the Duke. "The
revolt in the town will be supported by the States-General.
L'Hopital, whom we have befriended so well, and whose ele-
vation Queen Catherine opposed, is now our foe, and we need
the law on our side. The Queen-mother has too many ad-
herents now to allow of our sending her away. — And besides,
there are three more boys !"
"She is no longer a mother; she is nothing but a queen,"
said the Cardinal. "In my opinion, this is the very moment
to be rid of her. Energy, and again energy ! that is what I
Having said this, the Cardinal went back into the King's
room, and the Duke followed him. The prelate went straight
up to Catherine.
"The papers found on La Sagne, the Prince de Conde's
secretary, have been communicated to you," said he. "Yo"
know that the Bourbons mean to dethrone your children?
"I know it all," said the Queen.
"Well, then, will you not have the King of Navarre ar-
"There is a Lieutenant-General of the kingdom," replied
At this moment Francis complained of the most violent
pain in his ear, and began to moan lamentably. The phy-
sician left the fireplace, where he was warming himself, and
came to examine the patient's head.
"Well, monsieur?" said the Grand Master, addressing him.
"I dare not apply a compress to draw the evil humors.
Master Ambroise has undertaken to save his Majesty by an
operation, and I should annoy him by doing so."
"Put it off till to-morrow," said Catherine calmly, "and be
present, all of you medical men ; for you know what calum-
nies the death of a prince gives ground for."
She kissed her son's hands and withdrew.
"How coolly that audacious trader's daughter can speak of
180 ABOUT CATHERINE DE' MEDICI
the Dauphin's death, poisoned as he was by Montecuculi,
a Florentine of her suite !" cried Mary Stuart.
"Marie," said the little King, "my grandfather never cast
a suspicion on her innocence."
"Cannot we hinder that woman from coming here to-
morrow?" said the Queen in an undertone to her two uncles.
"What would become of us if the King should die?"
replied the Cardinal. "Catherine would hurl us all into his
And so that night the question stood plainly stated between
Catherine de' Medici and the House of Lorraine. The ar-
rival of the Chancellor and the Connetable de Montmorency
pointed to rebellion, and the dawn of the morrow would
On the following day the Queen-mother was the first to
appear. She found no one in her son's room but Mary Stuart,
pale and fatigued from having passed the night in prayer by
the bedside. The Duchesse de Guise had kept the Queen
company, and the maids of honor had relieved each other.
The young King was asleep.
Xeither the Duke nor the Cardinal had yet appeared. The
prelate, more daring than the soldier, had spent this last
night, it is said, in vehement argument, without being able
to induce the Duke to proclaim himself King. With the
States-General sitting in the town, and the pros-pect of a
battle to be fought with the Constable, the "Balafre" did
not think the opportunity favorable ; he refused to arrest the
Queen-mother, the Chancellor, Cardinal de Tournon, the
Gondis, Euggieri, and Birague, in face of the revolt that
would inevitably result from such violent measures. He made
his brother's schemes dependent on the life of Francis II.
Perfect silence reigned in the King's bedchamber. Cath-
erine, attended by IVIadame de Fieschi, came to the bedside
and gazed at her son with an admirable assumption of grief.
She held her handkerchief to her eyes, and retreated to the
window, where Madame de Fieschi brought her a chair.
From thence she could look down into the courtyard.
ABOUT CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 181
It had been agreed between Catherine and Cardinal de
Toumon that if Montmorency got safely into the town, he,
the Cardinal, would come to her, accompanied by the two
Gondis; in case of disaster, he was to come alone. At nine
in the morning the two Princes of Lorraine, accompanied by
their suite, who remained in the hall, came to the King's
room. The captain on duty had informed them that Am-
broise Pare had but just arrived with Chapelain and three
other physicians, prompted by Catherine, and all hating Am-
In a few minutes the great hall of the Bailliage presented
precisely the same appearance as the guardroom at Blois on
the day when the Due de Guise was appointed Lieutenant-
General of the kingdom, and when' Christophe was tortured ;
with only this difference, that then love and glee reigned in
the royal rooms, and that the Guises were triumphant;
whereas now death and grief prevailed, and the Princes of
Lorraine felt the power slipping from their grasp.
The maids of honor of the two Queens were grouped on
opposite sides of the great fireplace, where an immense fire
was blazing. The room was full of courtiers.
The news, repeated no one knows by whom, of a bold plan
of Ambroise Pare's for saving the King's life, brought in
every gentleman who had any right to appear at Court. The
outer steps of the house and the courtyard were thronged
with anxious groups. The scaffold erected for the Prince,
opposite the Convent of the Eecollets, astonished all the
nobles. People spoke in whispers, and here, as at Blois, the
conversation was a medley of serious and frivolous subjects,
of grave and trivial talk. They were beginning to feel used
to turmoils, to sudden rebellion, to a rush to arms, to revolts,
to the great and sudden events which marked the long period
during which the House of Valois was dying out, in spite of
Queen Catherine's efforts. Deep silence was kept for some
distance outside the bedroom door, where two men-at-arms
were on guard, with two pages, and the captain of the Scotch
182 ABOUT CATHERINE DE MEDICI
Antoine de Bourbon, a prisoner in his lodgings, finding
himself neglected, understood the hopes of the courtiers; he
was overwhelmed at hearing of the preparations made during
the night for his brother's execution.
In front of the hall fireplace stood one of the finest and
grandest figures of his time, the Chancellor de I'Hopital,
in his crimson robes bordered with ermine, and wearing his
square cap, in right of his office. This brave man, regarding
his benefactors as the leaders of a rebellion, had espoused the
cause of his king, as represented by the Queen-mother; and
at the risk of his head he had gone to ficouen to consult the
Connetable de Montmorency. No one dared to disturb the
meditations in which he was plunged. Eobertet, the Secre-
tary of State, two marshals of France, Vieilleville and Saint-
Andre, and the Keeper of the Seals, formed a group in front
of the Chancellor.
The men of the Court were not actually laughing, -but
their tone was sprightly, especially among those who were
disaffected to the Guises.
The Cardinal had at last secured Stuart, the Scotchman
who had murdered President Minard, and was arranging
for his trial at Tours. He had also confined in the chateaux
of Blois and of Tours a considerable number of gentlemen
who had seemed compromised, to inspire a certain degree
of terror in the nobles ; they, however, were not terrified, but
saw in the Reformation a fulcrum for the love of resistance
they derived from a feeling of their inborn equality with
the King. Now, the prisoners at Blois had contrived to es-
cape, and, by a singular fatality, those who had been shut up
at Tours had just followed their example.
' "Madame," said the Cardinal de Chatillon to Madame de
Fieschi, "if any one takes an interest in the prisoners from
,Tours, they are in the greatest danger."
On hearing this speech, the Chancellor looked round at the
group of the elder Queen's maids of honor.
"Yes, for young Desvaux, the Prince de Conde's equerry,
who was imprisoned at Tours, added a bitter jest to his escape.
ABOUT CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 183
He is said to have written a note to Messieurs de Guise to this
'* 'We have heard of the escape of your prisoners at Blois ;
it has grieved us so much, that 7/e are about to run alter
tliem ; we will bring them back to you as soon an we have
arrested them.' "
Though he relished this pleasantry, the Chancellor looked
sternly at Monsieur de Chatillon.
At this instant louder voices were heard in the King's
bedchamber. The two marshals, with Robertet and the Chan-
cellor, went forward, for it was not merely a question of life
and death to the King; everybody was in the secret of the
danger to the Chancellor, to Catherine, and to her adherents.
The silence that ensued was absolute.
Ambroise had examined the King; the moment seemed
favorable for the operation ; if it were not performed, he might
die at any moment. As soon as the brothers de Guise came in,
he explained to them the causes of the King's sufferings, and
demonstrated that in such extremities trepanning was abso-
lutely necessary. He only awaited the decision of the phy-
"Pierce my son's skull as if it were a board, and with that
horrible instrument !" cried Catherine de' Medici. "Maitre
Ambroise, I will not permit it."
The doctors were consulting, but Catherine spoke so loud
that, as she intended, her words were heard in the outer room.
"But, madame, if that is the only hope of saving him?"
said Mary Stuart, weeping.
"Ambroise," said Catherine, "remember that you answer
for the King with your head."
"We are opposed to the means proposed by Maitre Am-
broise," said the three physicians. "The King may be saved
by injecting a remedy into the ear which will release the
humors through that passage."
184 ABOUT CATHERINE DE' MEDICI
The Due de Guise, who was studying Catherine's face, sud-
denly went up to her, and led her into the window-bay.
"You, madame," said he, "wish your son to die; you are
in collusion with your enemies, and that since we came from
Blois. This morning Councillor Viole told your furrier's
son that the Prince de Conde was to be beheaded. That young
man, who, under torture, had denied all knowledge of the
Prince de Conde, gave him a farewell greeting as he passed
the window of the lad's prison. You looked on at your hap-
less accomplice's sufferings with royal indifference. Now, you
are opposed to your eldest son's life being saved. You will
force us to believe that the death of the Dauphin, which
placed the crown on the head of the late King, was not
natural, but that Montecuculi was your "
"Monsieur le Chancelier!" Catherine called out, and at
this signal Madame de Fieschi threw open the double doors
of the bedchamber.
The persons assembled in the hall could thus see the whole
scene in the King's room: the little King, deadly pale^ his
features sunk, his eyes dim, but repeating the word "Marie,"
while he held the hand of the young Queen, who was weeping ;
the Duchesse de Guise standing, terrified by Catherine's au-
dacity; the two Princes of Lorraine, not less anxious, but
keeping close to the Queen-mother, and resolved to have her
arrested by Maille-Breze ; and finally, the great surgeon Am-
broise Pare, with the King's physician. He stood holding
his instruments, but not daring to perform the operation,
for which perfect quiet was as necessary as the approbation
of the medical authorities.
"Monsieur le Chancelier," said Catherine, "Messieurs de
Guise wish to authorize a strange operation on the King's
person. Ambroise proposes to perforate his head. I, as his
mother, and one of the commission of Eegency, protest
against what seems to me to be high treason. The three
physicians are in favor of an injection which, to me, seems
quite as efficacious and less dangerous than the cruel process
recommended by Ambroise."
ABOUT CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 185
At these words there was a dull murmur in reply. The
Cardinal admitted the Chancellor, and then shut the bedroom
"But I am Lieutenant-General of the realm," said the Due
de Guise, "and you must understand, Monsieur le Chancelier,
that Ambroise, surgeon to his Majesty, answers for the King's
"Well, since this is the state of affairs," said the great
Ambroise Pare, "I know what to be doing."
He put out his arm over the bed.
"This bed and the King are mine," said he. "I constitute
myself the sole master, and singly responsible ; I know the
duties of my office, and I will operate on the King without
the physicians' sanction."
"Save him !" cried the Cardinal, "and you shall be the
richest man in France."
"Only go on !" said Mary Stuart, pressing Fare's hand.
"I cannot interfere," said the Chancellor, "but I sLdil
record the Queen-mother's protest."
"Eobertet," the Due de Guise called out.
Robertet came in, and the Duke pointed to the Chancellor.
"You are Chancellor of France," he said, "in the place of
this felon. Monsieur de Maille, take Monsieur de I'Hopital
to prison with the Prince de Conde. — As to you, madarae,"
and he turned to Catherine, "your protest will not be recog-
nized, and you would do well to remember that such actions
need the support of adequate force. I am acting as a faithful
and loyal subject of King Francis II., my sovereign. — Pro-
ceed, Ambroise," he said to the surgeon.
"Monsieur de Guise," said I'Hopital, "if you use any vio-
lence, either on the person of the King or on that of his
Chancellor, remember that in the hall without there is enough
French nobility to arrest all traitors."
"Gentlemen, gentlemen," said the surgeon, "if you prolong
this debate, you may as well shout 'Vive Charles IX.,' for
King Francis is dying."
Catherine stood unmoved, looking out of window.
186 ABOUT CATHERINE DE' MEDICI
"Well, then, we will use force to remain masters in the
King's bedroom," said the Cardinal, trying to keep the door ;
but he was startled and horrified, for the great hall was quite
deserted. The Court,- sure that the King was dying, had
gone back to Antoine of Navarre.
"Come; do it, do it," cried Mary Stuart to Ambroise. — "I
and you. Duchess," she said to Madame de Guise, "will pro-
tect you." ^
"Nay, madame," said Pare, "my zeal carried me too far;
the doctors, with the exception of my friend Chapelain, are
in favor of the injection ; I must yield to them. If I were
physician and surgeon-in-chief, he could be saved! — Give it
me," he said, taking a small syringe from the hand of the
chief physician, and filling it.
"Good God !" cried Mary Stuart ; "I command you "
"Alas ! madame," replied Pare, "I am subordinate to these
The young Queen and the Duchesse de Guise stood between
the surgeon and the doctors and the other persons present.
The chief physician held the King's head, and Ambroise
made the injection into the ear. The two Princes of Lor-
raine were watchful; Robertet and Monsieur de Maille stood
motionless. x4t a sign from Catherine, Madame de Fieschi
left the room unnoticed. At the same instant I'Hopital boldly
threw open the door of the King's bedroom.
"I have arrived in the nick of time," exclaimed a man,
whose hasty steps rang through the hall, and who, in another
minute, was at the door of the King's room. "What, gentle-
men ! You thought to cut off my fine nephew, the Prince de
Conde's head? — You have roused the lion from his lair, and
here he is !" added the Connetable de Montmorency. — "Am-
broise, you are not to stir up my King's brains with your*
instruments ! The Kings of France do not allow themselves
to be knocked about in that way unless by their enemies' sword
in fair fight ! The first Prince of the Blood, Antoine de
Bourbon, the Prince de Conde, the Queen-mother, and the
Chancellor are all opposed to the operation."
ABOUT CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 187
To Catherine's great satisfaction, the King of Navarre
and the Prince de Conde both made their appearance.
"What is the meaning of this?" said. the Due de Guise, lay-
ing his hand on his poniard.
"As Lord High Constable, I have dismissed all the sentinels
from their posts. Blood and thunder ! we are not in an
enemy's country, I suppose. The King our Master is sur-
rounded by his subjects, and the States-General of the realm
may deliberate in perfect liberty. I have just come from tl\et>
Assembly, gentlemen ; I laid before it the protest of my
nephew de Conde, who has been rescued by three hundred
gentlemen. You meant to let the royal blood, and to deci-
mate the nobility of France. Henceforth I shall not trust
anything you propose, Messieurs de Lorraine. And if you
give the order for the King's head to be opened, by this
sword, which saved France from Charles V., I say it shall
not be done !"
"All the more so," said Ambroise Pare, "because it is too
late, suffusion has begun."
"Your reign is over, gentlemen," said Catherine to the two
Guises, seeing from Fare's manner that there was now no
"You, madame, have killed your son !" said Mary Stuart,
springing like a lioiness from the bed to the window, and seiz-
ing the Italian Queen by the arm with a vehement clutch.
"My dear," replied Catherine de' Medici, with a keen, cold
look that expressed the hatred she had suppressed for six
months past, "you, to whose violent passion this death is
due, will now go to reign over your own Scotland— and you
will go to-morrow. I am now Regent in fact as well as in
The three physicians had made a sign to the Queen-m'other.
"Gentlemen," she went on, addressing the Guises, "it is
an understood thing between Monsieur de Boiirbon — whom I
hereby appoint Lieutenant-General of the kingdom — and my-
self that the conduct of affairs is our business. — Come, Mon-
sieur le Chancelier."
188 ABOUT CATHERINE DE' MEDICI
"The King is dead!" said the Grand Master, obliged to
carry out the functions of his otHce.
"God save King Charles IX. !" cried the gentleman who
had come with the King of Navarre, the Prince de Conde,
and the Constable.
The ceremonies performed when a King of France dies
were carried out in solitude. When the king-at-arms called
out three times in the great hall, "The King is dead !" after
the official announcement by the Due de Guise, there were but
a few persons present to answer — "God save the King !"
The Queen-mother, to whom the Countess Fieschi brought
the Due d'Orleans, now Charles IX., left the room leading
the boy by the hand, and followed by the whole Court. Only
the two Guises, the Duchesse de Guise, Mary Stuart, and
Dayelle remained in the room where Francis II. had breathed
his last, with two guards at the door, the Grand Master's
pages and the Cardinal's, and their two private secretaries.
"Vive la France !" shouted some of the Eeformers, a first
cry of opposition.
Kobertet, who owed everything to the Duke and the Car-
dinal, terrified by their schemes and their abortive attempts,
secretly attached himself to the Queen-mother, whom the
Ambassadors of Spain, England, the German Empire, and
Poland met on the stairs, at their head Cardinal Tournon,
who had gone to call them after looking up from the court-
yard to Catherine de' Medici just as she was protesting
against Ambroise Fare's operation.
'I^^ell, the sons of Louis d'Outre-Mer, the descendants of
Charles de Lorraine, have proved cravens," said the Cardinal
to the Duke.
"They would have been packed off to Lorraine," replied
his brother. "I declare to you, Charles," he went on, "if
.the crown were there for the taking, I would not put out my
hand for it. That will be my son's task."
^^ill he ever have the army and the Church on his side
as you have ?"
"He will have something better."
ABOUT CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 189
"And there is no one to monrn for him but me — the poor
boy who loved me so well !" said Mary Stuart, holding the
cold hand of her first husband.
"How can we be reconciled to the Queen?" said the Car-
"Wait till she quarrels with the Huguenots," said the
The clashing interests of the House of Bourbon, of Cath-
erine, of the Guises, and of the Eeformers produced such
confusion in Orleans, that it was not till three days after that
the King's body, quite forgotten where it lay, was placed in
a coffin by obscure serving men, and carried to Saint-Denis
in a covered vehicle, followed only by the Bishop of Senlis
and two gentlemen. > When this dismal little procession ar-
rived at the town of Etampes, a follower of the Chancellor de
FHopital attached to the hearse this bitter inscription, which
history has recorded : "Tanneguy du Chastel, where are you ?
Yet you too were Freiich !" A stinging innuendo, striking at
Catherine, Mary Stuart, and the Guises. For what French-
man does not know that Tanneguy du Chastel spent thirty
thousand crowns (a million of francs in these days) on the
obsequies of Charles VII., the benefactor of his family?
As soon as the tolling bells announced the death of Francis
II., and the Connetable de Montmorency had thrown open
the gates of the town, Touriilon went up to his hayloft and
made his way to a hiding-place.
"What, can he be dead?" exclaimed the glover.
On hearing the voice, a man rose and replied, "Pret a