Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Madame De Chevreuse Returns To Court - Famous Women From The Business of Politics


AFTER ten years’ absence from the scene of her former triumphs, social and political, did the brilliant Duchess then once more find herself safe and free in France. The _Gazette de Renaudot_–the _Moniteur_ of that day–recording the return of Madame de Chevreuse, on the 14th of June, 1643, remarks:–”During such long exile, this princess has manifested what an elevated mind like hers can do, in spite of all those vicissitudes of fortune which her constancy has surmounted. The Duchess went to pay homage to their Majesties, during which visit she received so many tokens of affection from the Queen-Regent, and gave her in return such proofs of her zeal in everything relating to her service, and so much resignation to her will, that it indeed appears that length of time, distance, or thorny asperities can only prevail over common minds. Hence the great train of visitors from this Court to her daily, and for which her spacious hotel scarcely affords room, does not excite so much wonder as the fact which has been the subject of remark, that the fatigue consequent upon long journeys and the rigour of adverse fortune have worked no change in her magnanimity, nor–which is the more extraordinary–in her beauty.”

Making due allowance for the inflated diction of the complaisant Court newswriter, let us endeavour to approach somewhat nearer to the truth.

Madame de Chevreuse had then entered upon her forty-third year. Though still surprisingly well-preserved, her beauty, tried by adversity, was visibly on the decline. The inclination to gallantry still existed, but subdued, politics having gained the supremacy. She had formed the acquaintance of, and held political relations with, the most celebrated statesmen in Europe. She had figured at almost all its Courts, the strength and weakness of its several Governments were known to her, and in her wanderings, having seen “men and cities,” she had acquired a large experience. The tried favourite hoped to find Anne of Austria the same as she had left her–averse to business, and very willing to allow herself to be led by those for whom she had a particular affection; and as Madame de Chevreuse had been in her youthful days paramount in the Queen’s affection, she fully expected to exercise over her that twofold ascendancy which love and capacity would jointly give. More ambitious for her friends than for herself, she saw them already rewarded for their long sacrifices, replacing everywhere the creatures of Richelieu, and at their head, in the highest post, as first minister, him who for her sake had broken with the triumphant Cardinal, and had endured an imprisonment of ten tedious years. She did not care much about Mazarin, with whom she had no acquaintance, whom she had never seen, and who appeared to her unsupported either by the Court or the French nation, whilst she felt herself sustained by all that was illustrious, powerful, and accredited therein. She believed that she could make sure of the Duke d’Orleans through his wife, the beautiful Margaret, sister of Charles of Lorraine. She could dispose almost at will of the Houses of Rohan and Lorraine, particularly of the Duke de Guise and the Duke d’Elbeuf, like herself just returned from Flanders. She reckoned upon the Vendomes, upon the Duke d’Epernon, upon La Vieuville, her old companions in exile in England; upon the ill-treated Bouillons, upon La Rochefoucauld, whose disposition and pretensions were so well known to her; upon Lord Montagu, who had been her slave, and at that moment possessed the entire confidence of Anne of Austria; upon La Chatre, the friend of the Vendomes, and Colonel-General of the Swiss Guards; upon Treville, upon Beringhen, upon Jars, upon La Porte, who were all emerging from exile, prison, and disgrace. Among the women, her young stepmother and her sister-in-law seemed secure–Madame de Montbazon and Madame de Guemene, the two greatest beauties of the time, who drew after them a numerous crowd of old and young adorers. She knew also that among the first acts of the Regent had been the recall to her side of the two noble victims of Richelieu–Madame de Senece and Madame de Hautefort, whose virtue and piety had conspired so beneficially with other influences, and had given them an inestimable weight in the household of Anne of Austria. All those calculations seemed accurate, all those hopes well-founded; and Madame de Chevreuse left Brussels firmly persuaded that she was about to re-enter the Louvre as a conqueress. She deceived herself: the Queen was already changed, or very nearly so.

To show due honour to her former favourite, however, Anne of Austria despatched La Rochefoucauld to greet and escort her homewards; but before he set out she charged him to inform the Duchess of the altered disposition in which she would find her royal mistress. During that audience Rochefoucauld did his utmost to reinstate his charming friend and close ally in the Queen’s good graces. “I spoke to her,” says he, “with more freedom perhaps than was becoming. I set before her Madame de Chevreuse’s fidelity, her long-continued services, and the severity of the misfortunes which they had entailed upon her. I entreated her to consider of what fickleness she would be thought capable, and what interpretation might be placed upon such inconsiderateness if she should prefer Cardinal Mazarin to Madame de Chevreuse. Our conversation was long and stormy, and I saw clearly that I had exasperated her.” He then started to meet the Duchess on the road from Brussels, and found her at Roye, whither Montagu had already preceded him. Montagu had travelled to Roye to place Mazarin’s homage at the feet of Madame de Chevreuse, with the view of bringing about at any cost an union and identity of policy between the old and the new favourite. He was no longer the gay and sprightly Walter Montagu, the friend of Holland and Buckingham, the enamoured knight ever ready to break a lance against all comers for a glance of the bright eyes of Madame de Chevreuse. Time had changed him as well as others: he had become a bigot and a devotee, and already contemplated taking orders in the Church of Rome. He still remained, however, attached to the object of his former adoration, but above all he belonged to the Queen, and consequently resigned to Mazarin. La Rochefoucauld–ever ready to ascribe to himself the chief share in any undertaking in which he figured, as well as the character of a great politician–asserts that he entreated Madame de Chevreuse not to attempt at first to govern the Queen, but to endeavour solely to regain in Anne’s mind and heart that place of which it had been sought to deprive her, and to put herself in a position in which she would be able to protect or ruin the Cardinal, according to conduct or circumstances emanating from himself.

The Duchess listened attentively to the advice of both her old friends, promised to follow it, and did so in fact, but in her own peculiar way, and in that of the interest of the party she had so long served, and which she would not abandon. As Anne of Austria seemed much pleased at seeing the noble wanderer again, and gave her a warm reception, Marie did not perceive any difference in the Queen’s sentiments, and flattered herself that by constant assiduousness she would ere long resume that sway over the Regent’s mind she had formerly exercised.

Operating against this not unreasonable expectation of Madame de Chevreuse, Mazarin had a silent but potent ally in the newly-awakened inclination of Anne for repose and a tranquil life. The first draughts of almost supreme power tasted by the long-oppressed Queen were not yet embittered by faction and anarchy. In bygone days, insult, neglect, and persecution had stirred her at intervals into mental activity, and urged her upon dangerous courses; but now, having obtained all she aimed at, happy, and beginning to form attachments, she entertained a dread of troublesome adventures and hazardous enterprises. She therefore feared Madame de Chevreuse quite as much as she loved her. The astute Cardinal anxiously strove to foster such distrust. He looked for support from the Princess de Conde, then high in the Queen’s favour, both through her own merit as well as that of the Prince her husband, but more than all through the brilliant exploits of her son, the Duke d’Enghien; through the services also of her son-in-law the Duke de Longueville, who had, with honourable distinction, commanded the armies of Italy and Germany, and by her recently-married daughter, Madame de Longueville, already the darling of the _salons_ and the Court. The Princess, like Queen Anne, had in the heyday of her beauty been fond of homage and gallantry, but had now grown serious, and displayed a somewhat lively piety. She held Madame de Chevreuse in aversion, and detested Chateauneuf, who, in 1632, at Toulouse, had presided at the trial and condemnation of her brother, Henri de Montmorency. She therefore had striven, in concert with Mazarin, to destroy or at least weaken Madame de Chevreuse’s hold upon the Queen. Armed with the last will of Louis XIII., they had made it appear something like a fault in the Queen’s eyes to disregard it so soon and so entirely. They had given her to understand that former days and associations could never return; that the amusements and passions of early youth were but “evil accompaniments” of a later period of life; that now she was before all things a mother and a Queen; that Madame de Chevreuse, dissipated and carried away by passion, and cherishing the same inclination for gallantry and idle vanity as hitherto, was no longer worthy of her confidence; that she had brought good fortune to no one; and that in lavishing wealth and honour upon the Duchess the debt of gratitude she owed her would be sufficiently discharged.

Adapted From Political Women by Sutherland Menzies

 Compiled From Sources In The Public Domain.
I have a graduate degree in history and I love history in all it’s forms–especially women’s history. A graduate degree in women’s studies was not an option at the university where I received my MA in History so I had to make do with a more generalized degree. However, in every class I made up for the lack by researching the condition of women in each age that I studied. I have always been fascinated by women’s history, so I thought I would start sharing some of the lost treasures that I uncover. I believe that most people have curious minds and like glimpses of how the world was, and how things were perceived in the past. I firmly believe in the idea that we must remember history in order to learn from it, grow and hopefully cut down on the number of stupid mistakes that random impulse and intellectual curiosity and greed and a thousand other human motivators lead us to make.
Smiles and Good Fortune,
Teresa Thomas Bohannon

It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent.
– W. Somerset Maugham (1874 - 1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

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