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The Life of Marie de Medicis — Volume 2 online

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was moreover authorized to state that the Pope had no intention of
exercising any severity against the reformed party in France, but would
confine himself to attempting their conversion by means of the pulpit
eloquence and good example of the Roman priesthood. The satisfaction of
James increased as he listened, and when he had warmly expressed his
gratification at the intelligence, Bouillon ventured to insinuate that
the Regent had been deeply wounded by the fact of his having entered
into the Protestant League of Germany; and besought him, in her name, to
be favourable to his Catholic subjects.

At this point of the discourse James cautiously replied that the League
involved no question of religion, but was purely a measure adopted for
the reciprocal security of the confederated states; and that, as
regarded the English Catholics, he would willingly permit the peaceable
exercise of their faith in his dominions, so soon as they should have
given pledges of their fidelity and obedience. Still undismayed,
Bouillon then exposed what was to himself personally the most important
feature of his mission, and urged his Britannic Majesty to express his
disapproval of the proceedings of the Assembly at Saumur, and especially
of the attitude assumed by the Duc de Rohan. Here, however, he was fated
to discover that James had not for a moment been the dupe of his
sophistical eloquence, ably as it had been exerted. A cloud gathered
upon the brow of the English monarch, and as the Maréchal paused for a
reply, he was startled by the coldness and decision with which it was
delivered.

"If the Queen your mistress," said James with marked emphasis, "sees fit
to infringe the edicts accorded to the Protestants of her kingdom, I
shall not consider that the alliance into which I have entered with
France ought to prevent me from assisting and protecting them. When my
neighbours are endangered from a cause in which I am personally
involved, I am naturally called upon to avert an evil that may extend to
myself. Believe me, moreover, Marshal, when I say that you will be wise
to effect a reconciliation with the Due de Rohan; and I shall cause him
to understand that such is my wish."

The ill-success of his mission was a bitter mortification to M. de
Bouillon, who, dispirited and crestfallen, returned to Paris to report
his failure. He, however, met with no sympathy, the ministers declaring
that he had failed through his neglect of their instructions, and of the
express orders of the Regent; while the Maréchal complained on his side
that he had been selected for this delicate embassy from the express
intention, on the part of those who inveighed against him, of
accomplishing his disgrace.

M. de Lesdiguières also, at this period, discovered that he had been the
dupe of his own ambition, and the tool of that of others. The ducal
brevet of which he had considered himself secure was refused to him upon
the plea that MM. de Brissac and de Fervaques were both senior marshals
to himself, and that such a favour could not be conferred upon him
without exciting their indignation. Vainly did he urge the promise made
to him by Henri IV; neither the Regent nor her ministers would yield;
when, irritated by the part which he had been made to play while his
co-operation was necessary to the accomplishment of their measures, and
the after-affront to which he was thus subjected, he retired from the
Court in disgust, and transferred his services to the Princes of
the Blood.

As we have already stated, Concini had, although less openly, followed
the same course; but, in the first instance, he had skilfully effected a
reconciliation with his wife, and induced her to assist him in his
endeavour to weaken the extraordinary influence which the Duc d'Epernon
and the Guises were rapidly acquiring over the Regent, who willingly
forgot, amid the constant amusement and adulation with which they
surrounded her, the cares and anxieties of government. The Duc de
Vendôme had also attached himself to the Court party, and this domestic
league had consequently become more formidable than ever in the eyes of
those who saw their interests compromised by its continuance.

Marie could not, however, conceal from herself the absolute necessity of
conciliating the disaffected Princes before the arrival of the
ambassador of Philip, who was shortly expected to claim the hand of
Madame for the Prince of Spain; and she accordingly determined to pave
the way towards a reconciliation by thwarting the ambition of the great
nobles who were obnoxious to the Princes. The first opportunity that
presented itself of adopting this somewhat ungenerous policy was
afforded by the Duc de Vendôme, who demanded the royal sanction to
preside over the States of Brittany, of which province he was governor;
but his intention having been discovered by the Comte de Soissons and M.
de Condé, they lost no time in warning their friends at Court against
such a concession, and in reminding them that he had allied himself with
the enemies of his royal father and the House of Bourbon; and that his
influence might prove fatal to the tranquillity of the nation should he
be permitted to exert it in a distant province, where his personal
consideration and the enormous wealth of his wife must conduce to render
him all-powerful. These arguments were impressed upon the Regent alike
by the ministers and by the Marquis d'Ancre, who no sooner saw himself
once more in favour than he exerted all his influence to undermine the
power of the rival faction; and as her private views warmly seconded
their representations, Marie instantly resolved to refuse the
coveted favour.

When, therefore, the Duc de Vendôme proffered his request, the Queen met
it with a cold denial, and instructed M. de Brissac to proceed at once
to Brittany as his substitute; an affront which so stung the Duke that
he immediately challenged De Brissac; but before the meeting could take
place it was betrayed to the Queen, who, irritated by this disregard of
her authority, would not be induced to wait until a reconciliation could
be effected between them, but issued a peremptory order that M. de
Vendôme should leave the Court on the instant, and retire to his estate
of Anet, and that the Maréchal de Brissac should forthwith proceed to
Brittany. In vain did the fiery young Prince explain and expostulate;
Marie was inexorable; and although the Ducs de Guise and d'Epernon
interceded in his behalf, they were equally unsuccessful; nor did they
discontinue their entreaties until the Queen bade them rather look to
the stability of their own favour than hasten its termination by
upholding the cause of those who rebelled against her pleasure.

This incident afforded unmitigated satisfaction to the absent Princes;
but to the Comte de Soissons it was nevertheless only the herald of more
important concessions on the part of the Regent. In his temporary
retirement he had dwelt at leisure on his imaginary wrongs; his hatred
of the ministers had increased; and, above all, he had vowed the ruin of
the Chancellor. In his nephew the Prince de Condé he found a willing
listener and an earnest coadjutor; but from a very different impulse. M.
de Soissons panted for power, and loathed every impediment to the
gratification of his ambition; while the young Prince, less firm of
purpose, and more greedy of pleasure and ostentation, was wearied by the
obscurity of his existence, and the tedium of his self-imposed exile.

Concini, with admirable tact, played upon the weaknesses of both
Princes, and augmented their discontent; while he was at the same time
careful to exonerate the Regent from all blame. Conscious that without
her support he could not sustain for an hour the factitious power to
which he had attained, he laboured incessantly to throw the whole odium
of the disunion upon the ministers, who were fully as obnoxious to
himself as to the Princes.

"They it is," he continually repeated, "who are the true cause of your
estrangement. The Queen is, as I know, well disposed towards all the
Princes of the Blood; but Sillery, Villeroy, and Jeannin are constantly
representing to her the danger of allowing you to become too powerful.
Your real enemies are the ministers who are fearful of affording you the
opportunity of overbalancing their influence."

This assurance was too flattering to the self-love of the Princes to be
repulsed; they forgot that Concini himself had been as eager as those
whom he now inculpated to destroy their importance, and to limit their
power; they saw the great nobles, whose ambition was disappointed, or
whose vanity was wounded, successively espouse their cause, and they
were easily induced to believe that the time was not far distant when
they should triumph over their opponents, and be repaid for all their
mortifications. This was precisely the frame of mind into which Concini
had endeavoured to bring them; and so ably did he avail himself of his
advantage that at length, when on one occasion he found himself in
company with the Prince de Condé, the Comte de Soissons, and the
Maréchaux de Bouillon and de Lesdiguières, he induced them to unite with
him in attempting the ruin of the ministers.

He was, moreover, powerfully abetted in his intrigue by the Duke of
Savoy; who, outraged at the insult which had been offered to him by the
Regent in bestowing the hand of Madame Elisabeth, which had been
solemnly promised to the Prince of Piedmont, upon the Infant of Spain;
and who, moreover, hoped to profit by the internal dissensions of
France, and to recover through the medium of the disaffected Princes the
provinces which Henri IV had compelled him to relinquish in exchange for
the marquisate of Saluzzo, omitted no opportunity of endeavouring to
foment a civil war; from which, while he had nothing to apprehend, he
had the prospect of reaping great personal advantage.

Thus supported, Concini, who was aware of the intimate relations
subsisting between Charles Emmanuel and the Comte de Soissons, did not
hesitate to urge the Princes to a resolute resistance; nor was this seed
of rebellion scattered upon sterile soil. M. de Soissons pledged
himself that on his return from Normandy, where he was about to sojourn
for a short time, he would publicly insult the Chancellor; while M. de
Lesdiguières, who was still furious at the disappointment to which he
had been subjected, and who was about to return to Dauphiny,
volunteered, should the Princes decide upon enforcing their claims, to
march ten thousand infantry and fifteen hundred horse to the gates
of Paris.

Nor did the vindictive Italian confine his efforts to thus tampering
with the disaffected Princes; he was equally indefatigable with the
Regent, who, even had she been disinclined to regard his own
representations, never neglected those of her beloved Leonora; and who
was, moreover, the better disposed to yield to his arguments because she
saw her foster-sister once more happy, and believed that the affection
of the Marquis had been restored to his wife through her own influence.

Success rendered Concini bold. He was aware that he had secured a strong
hold upon the confidence and regard of the malcontents; but when he
found the Queen inclined to make concessions in their favour which
threatened to invest them with a power as dangerous to his own interests
as that now wielded by the ministers, he did not hesitate to dissuade
her from her purpose. Anxious to conciliate the Comte de Soissons, Marie
declared her determination to effect this desirable result by bestowing
upon him the government of Ouilleboeuf, the refusal of which had been
the original cause of his estrangement; a resolve from which she was,
however, diverted by the representations of the Italian that such a
concession, thus tardily and reluctantly made, must be fatal to her
dignity, and would only lead to fresh demands on the part of the Prince,
whose insatiable ambition was no secret; while, fearful lest his own
representations should fail to change her purpose, he employed his
confidential friend and ally the Baron de Luz to entreat of the Due de
Guise to second his endeavour. In this attempt, however, the Marquis
failed through an excess of subtlety, as the Duke, outraged by this
double treason, not only refused to lend himself to so dishonourable an
act of treachery, but immediately informed M. de Soissons of the deceit
which was practised towards him; and feeling deeply aggrieved moreover
by the affront that had been offered to César de Vendôme, he declared
himself prepared to espouse the cause of the Princes against the
machinations of the Marquis d'Ancre. His example was followed by the
whole of his family, as well as by the Cardinal de Joyeuse and the Due
de Bellegarde; and thus the unfortunate Regent was suddenly deprived of
all her friends with the sole exception of the Duc d'Epernon, who,
either from an excess of pride which would not permit him to humble
himself so far as to induce him to pay his court to the Princes from
whom he had received so many and such bitter mortifications, or from the
state of indisposition under which he was at that period labouring,
refused to take any share in the intrigues of the Court.

Concini became alarmed; he had so long been the spoilt child of fortune
that every reverse overthrew his self-possession; and in the first
paroxysm of his terror he considered himself lost. Chance and his own
ready cunning still, however, stood his friends. The Grand Equerry
(Bellegarde) was, with the insane superstition of the time, accused of
having suborned witnesses to prove that the Marquis had endeavoured by
means of a magic mirror to inspire some of the highest ladies of the
Court with a passion for his person; and as Concini demanded reparation
for this injury, an investigation was instituted, to effect which it was
necessary that summonses should be issued to the witnesses. Sillery, to
whom the Italian was peculiarly obnoxious, and who was the friend of the
Duc de Bellegarde, made some difficulty when called upon to affix the
official seal to these documents; upon which Concini hastened to
complain to the Regent that the Chancellor was endeavouring to sacrifice
him to his enemies; and Marie, indignant no less at the apparent
injustice shown to her favourite than at the delay evinced in obeying
her commands, made no attempt to disguise her displeasure.

On the other hand, the Comte de Soissons, who still hoped to obtain from
the courtesy, or to wring from the fears, of the Regent the promised
government of Quilleboeuf, made a voyage into Normandy, which so alarmed
the Maréchal de Fervaques, who held the city, and who apprehended that
the Prince was about to possess himself of it by force, that he
privately reinforced the garrison; a fact which M. de Soissons no sooner
ascertained than he bitterly upbraided the Maréchal, and a quarrel
ensued between them that produced new difficulties.

Unfortunately Marie de Medicis was at this moment surrounded by evil and
interested advisers, by whom she was induced to embroil herself, not
only with the Princes of the Blood and great nobles, but also with the
Parliament, and eventually with the Protestants. The misunderstanding
which had arisen between the Duc de Rohan and the Maréchal de Bouillon
unhappily produced a disunion among the Huguenot party which laid them
open to the machinations of their enemies; and Marie, whose zeal for the
Romish communion always made her eager to harass and oppress the
Protestants, was readily persuaded to undertake the annullation of the
edicts by which their allegiance had hitherto been secured. Bouillon had
never forgiven the Duc de Rohan for the energetic part which he had
played at the Assembly of Saumur; and secure of his influence over the
mind of the Regent, who felt grateful for the offer of his services upon
that occasion, and the efforts which he had made to carry out her
wishes, he resolved to undermine the interests of the young Duke, and to
attempt to deprive him of his government of St. Jean-d'Angély which had
been bestowed upon him by Henri IV.

Apprised of his intention, M. de Rohan hastened to Court in order to
justify himself, but the mind of Marie had been poisoned against him,
and she treated his remonstrances with chilling indifference. Aware that
the mayor of the town had been bought by his enemies, and that should
that official be continued in his authority he must himself inevitably
lose his government, and thereby forfeit all his influence, the Duke no
sooner saw the period of the municipal election approach than,
pretexting the dangerous illness of his brother, he took his leave of
the Court and hastened back to St. Jean-d'Angély in order to compel the
retirement of the obnoxious functionary. As he had anticipated, on the
day of the canvass a letter was received from the ministers, ordaining
the re-election of the mayor without modification or explanation of any
kind; an affront which so exasperated M. de Rohan that he at once
resisted its enforcement; declaring that the Regent had been misinformed
with regard to the state of the town, which, according to the terms of
the letter, was inferred to be divided into parties; and that, as he
would undertake to convince her Majesty of the error under which she
laboured, they had only to proceed at once to a new election.

Bouillon had been prepared for this opposition; and found it easy to
induce Marie, whose jealousy of power always rendered her on such
occasions as the present a mere tool in the hands of her _soi-disant_
friends, to forward a second and more stringent order for the
continuance in office of the existing mayor. The Duke, however,
persisted in disregarding the mandate; and after having despatched his
secretary to the Louvre to explain the reasons of his resistance, he
proceeded to authorize the nomination of three persons, all eligible for
the office, in order that the Regent might make her own selection; and,
while awaiting her reply, the keys of the city were confided to the
senior sheriff; and he found himself complete master of the place.[146]

Nothing could exceed the indignation of Marie de Medicis on learning
this contempt of her authority. The messengers of M. de Rohan were
forthwith committed to the Bastille; orders were issued to the Duchess
his mother, to his wife, and to his sisters, not to leave the capital;
and preparations were even made to besiege the Duke in St. Jean-d'Angély
as a rebel. Manifestoes to the Protestants were next put forth by both
parties; that of the Queen-mother protesting that the aggressive
measures which she was about to adopt involved no question of faith, but
were destined to be directed simply against M. de Rohan as an
individual; and that consequently they would in no degree affect the
edicts of pacification, which would be rigidly observed; and calling
upon all faithful subjects of the King, whatever might be their
religious persuasion, to aid and abet the effort by which she trusted to
subdue the nascent rebellion threatened by so gross a disregard of the
constituted authorities of the realm. The Duke, on his side, threw
himself upon the justice and generosity of his co-religionists,
reminding them that it was through zeal for their common faith that he
had incurred the resentment of the Court; and having so done, he
hastened to place the city in such a state of defence as should enable
him to resist the attack of the royal troops.

The resolute position thus assumed by M. de Rohan alarmed the ministers;
who apprehensive that the neighbouring provinces, already disaffected by
the negative result of the Assembly of Saumur, would support the cause
of so bold a recusant, and thus renew the civil war by which the nation
had formerly been convulsed, became anxious to temporize. Negotiations
were accordingly commenced between the adverse factions; and it was
ultimately agreed that the keys of the city should be restored to the
mayor from whom they had been taken, and some subaltern officers
displaced by the Duke reinstated in their functions, and that so soon as
this arrangement had been completed a new election should take place, by
which M. de Rohan was to be at liberty to substitute others more
agreeable to himself. This absurd ceremony was accordingly performed;
the royal authority was supposed to have enforced its recognition; and
the Duke, by a merely visionary concession, preserved his
government.[147]

Meanwhile the young Duc de Mayenne had taken leave of the Court, and
departed with a brilliant suite for Madrid, to demand the hand of the
Infanta for the King of France; and on the same day the Duque de
Pastrano left the Spanish capital on his way to Paris to solicit that of
Madame Elisabeth for the Prince of Spain.

The ducal envoy reached the French capital early in the month of July,
accompanied by his brothers Don Francisco and Don Diego de Silva and a
number of Spanish grandees, having been received with extraordinary
honours in every town which he had traversed after passing the frontier.
The Ducs de Luxembourg[148] and de Nevers met him beyond the gate of the
city, accompanied by five hundred nobles on horseback, sumptuously
attired in velvet and cloth of gold and silver, with their horses
splendidly caparisoned. The retinue of the Iberian grandee was not,
however, as the French courtiers had fondly flattered themselves that it
would have been, eclipsed by the lavish magnificence of their own
appearance, his personal costume being of the most splendid description,
his horses and equipages costly and gorgeous, and his numerous train of
attendants habited in a livery of extreme richness.

On the 16th of the month the Spanish Duke had his first audience of the
young King, at which were assembled the Princes of the Blood, all the
high nobility of France, and the Cardinals de Sourdis and de Gondy.[149]
The two latter dignitaries endeavoured to excuse themselves, on the
pretext that their rank as Princes of the Church would not permit them
to seat themselves below the Princes of the Blood; but this pretension
on their part was considered so monstrous, even by the Regent herself,
that, anxious as she was to secure their attendance in order to render
the ceremony more imposing to the Spanish envoy, she did not venture to
support them in their arrogant assumption of equality with the first
subjects of the Crown; and she accordingly informed them in reply that
upon the present occasion there would be no regard paid to precedence,
but that each individual who was entitled to attend the audience would
be at liberty to seat himself as he saw fit.

Thus assured, the two prelates, attired in their rich robes of
violet-coloured velvet, entered the hall; and were about to take their
places near the royal daïs, when the Princes of the Blood, led by M. de
Condé, hastily passed them, and ranged themselves in a line on the right
hand of the King. The Cardinals then proceeded to adopt a similar
position beside the Queen-Regent, but they were immediately displaced by
the Dowager Princess of Condé, her daughter-in-law, and Madame de
Conti; and upon finding themselves thus excluded from the immediate
neighbourhood of the sovereign, they withdrew in great displeasure, no
effort being made to detain them.

Nor was this the only altercation which took place before the
commencement of the ceremony; and the one which we are about to relate
is so characteristic of the manners of that age among the great, that it
must not be omitted. The Duc de Nevers had taken his place upon the
bench appropriated to the Princes of the Blood, immediately below M. de
Soissons, who, being engaged in conversation with his brother, the
Prince de Conti, did not remark the intrusion. M. de Condé, however, who
was seated above his two uncles, at once discovered the enormity of
which the Duke had been guilty, and he forthwith commenced pushing the
Prince de Conti so violently that he excited his attention; and his
purpose was no sooner understood than his example was imitated with an
energy which was instantly communicated to the Comte de Soissons, who in
his turn so pressed upon M. de Nevers that he became extremely
irritated, and demanded why he was subjected to such ungracious
treatment.

"Because this is not a place for you," haughtily retorted the Prince de
Condé.

The Duc de Nevers made a bitter rejoinder, and high words ensued, which
were at length terminated by the Prince, who said significantly: "We can
explain ourselves better elsewhere, M. le Duc; follow me."



Online LibraryJulia PardoeThe Life of Marie de Medicis — Volume 2 → online text (page 14 of 30)