Saturday, November 19, 2016

Shadows In A Timeless Myth Presents The Escape of Marie De Medicis




Marie de’ Medicis, after the assassination of her favourite, Concini, seeing herself shut out from all participation in affairs by the intrigues of Luynes, asked for and obtained permission to retire to Blois (May, 1617), where she soon became a prisoner. Luynes surrounded her with spies, and placed two companies of cavalry in the neighbouring villages, with orders to watch her slightest movements. But the Duke d’Épernon and other malcontent lords, who had retired from the court, wishing to give more importance to their party, sought to deliver the Queen-mother and to place her at their head.

M. d’Épernon was chiefly urged on to this enterprise by a devoted adherent of the Queen-mother, named De Ruccellai, who had no other thought than how to serve his mistress, and no other inspiration than a passionate desire to see her at liberty. After long meditation over various plans, Ruccellai thought that no person could be made so useful to him as M. de Bouillon, on account both of that nobleman’s reputation among all classes of his countrymen, particularly among the Huguenots, and of the security which was afforded by his retreat at Sedan. He accordingly made a secret journey to Blois, and obtained the Queen-mother’s permission to speak to M. de Bouillon, and to promise him whatever might be necessary, in her name. He then sought out M. de Bouillon, but at very great peril, for he was obliged to travel by night and alone, for fear of being discovered. M. de Bouillon, however, excused himself from all participation in the design on account of his age, his infirmities, and his good understanding with the King, which he was unwilling to risk, as he had no other wish than to enjoy the benefits of that mercy which had been extended to him after the death of Marshal d’Ancre, and to end his days in peace. He, however, referred the Queen-mother’s messenger to M. d’Épernon, who, being extremely ill-satisfied with De Luynes, and having, besides, a number of large establishments in the kingdom, would be likely to prove far more serviceable in the cause than himself.

Ruccellai, having written to the Queen-mother and obtained her consent to this change of plan, laid his proposals before M. d’Épernon. The latter at first received them with some suspicion, but he was finally won over. At the end of a secret conference at his house, which lasted several days, he authorised Ruccellai to tell the Queen that if she could once contrive to escape from the chateau, and to pass the bridge on the Loire, he would await her arrival on the other side of the river, with such an escort as would conduct her safely, in spite of every obstacle, to Angoulême, or any other part of the kingdom to which she might choose to go. The Queen replied that nothing would be more easy; and Ruccellai pressed D’Épernon to hasten the execution of his part of the plan; but the latter insisted on putting off the enterprise till the February of the following year.

De Luynes, ever suspicious, and wishing to discover the real feelings of the Queen, sent one of his creatures to her, to say that the King was shortly going to Blois, and that he would fetch her away with him. The envoy also made repeated protestations of service on the part of De Luynes, and assured the Queen that she would in future be treated exactly in accordance with her own desires; but he never failed, while proffering these services, to narrowly watch the countenances of the Queen and all who approached her, to gather what he could of their real feelings. But not one of the Queen’s people was yet aware of her design; and as she had already sworn without scruple, so she did not hesitate to swear again, and that so well, that the agent of De Luynes went back firmly persuaded that she was impatient for the coming of the King, and was perfectly ready to be on good terms with his master and forget everything.

D’Épernon, having completed his measures, went to Confolens, where the Archbishop of Toulouse was waiting for him, with two hundred of his friends; but he did not find the expected news of the Queen-mother. He had, however, gone too far to recede; and he at once sent M. du Plessis to the Queen, to warn her of his arrival and to learn her wishes. When M. du Plessis had delivered his message, the Queen decided on setting out that same night.

She then for the first time took others into her confidence, and broke the matter to the Count de Brennes, her master of the horse, to M. de Merçay, and another officer of her body guard, and to the Signora Caterine, her woman of the bedchamber. She ordered the Count de Brennes to be at the door of her room at five the next morning, and to see that her travelling chariot with six horses was at the same time beyond the bridge. The others she kept with her all night, to pack up her jewels and wearing apparel.

With these three gentlemen then, and a single woman of the bedchamber, she left the place on the 22nd of February, at six in the morning, by the window of a room looking out upon the terrace, from which, owing to a broken wall, it was easy to reach the ground without passing by the door of the chateau. After the Queen had let herself glide down this ruin, and had regained her feet, she made her way to the bridge, where she met two men, one of whom, seeing her almost alone at that early hour, passed a very uncharitable judgment upon her. The other, however, recognised her, guessed her purpose, and wished her “God speed.”

On the other side of the bridge she found her carriage, and entering it, with her attendants she went to Montrichard, where she came up with one of her gentlemen, who had preceded her to make sure of the passage of the Cher. She remained there two days, during which time she wrote to the King, and then she set out for Angoulême.

After long conferences and innumerable intrigues, in which De Luynes and Richelieu, then Bishop of Luçon, displayed all their ability, Marie de’ Medicis, seeing all her partisans abandoning her interests in their anxiety to carry on a quarrel among themselves, left Angoulême for Tours, where Louis XIII. and Anne of Austria were waiting for her. They received her at about two leagues from the city, and lavished upon her the most affectionate caresses. She passed seven or eight days with them, and then withdrew for a time to Chinon, until the preparations were completed for her grand entry into Angers.—(Memoirs of Fontenay-Mareuil.)

 Compiled from sources in the public domain.

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