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Beauvais. Great was the indignation of the princess his grandmother, who disinherited him; of his mother, although herself so irregular in her conduct; and of all his relatives. Louis XIV. alone sympathised with him, for he had made vain attempts upon the virtue of the lady himself, and had to put up with her friend La Fontanges, whom she acknowledgedly surpassed in beauty as she also did in chastity. The Count of Soissons, persecuted at the court of France, sought military employment abroad, and soon found an honourable death. His beautiful widow died a poor, broken-hearted wanderer, and his children also perished when young
The second brother, Prince Philip, died of the small-pox. The third, the Chevalier de Savoie, perished from an accident. The fourth, the Chevalier de Soissons, distinguished himself by falling in love with his aunt, the Duchess of Mazarin, and killing a rival in her affections in a duel. The fifth, Eugène Maurice, was, as usual, where there were five, destined for the Church, and from being a persecuted, despised little abbé, became, in the service of the States-General, the “Grand Abbé de Hollande.” Eugène de Savoie, hated by Louvois and despised by Louis XIV., soon cast off the sacerdotal habits and entered the service of the emperor. On hearing this, Louis XIV. said, laughingly, “ Do you not think that I have sustained a great loss ?” It was indeed a great loss, and such a one as he little suspected. He sent without a regret a sword to his enemies which was destined to shake him on his throne ; he gave to them a general as great as Turenne, whilst his own armies were entrusted to a La Feuillade and a Villeroy. With one man more Louis XIV. would have died the arbiter of Europe-he would have been the "grand monarque” to the end. By losing the little abbé, France also lost many a province.
The Countess of Soissons, after an ineffectual attempt to return to France when Madame de Montespan was succeeded by another Esther, threw all her energies into the service of her illustrious son. For his sake she visited Spain and England, and her memory is gloomily associated in the former country with the death of the queen, upon whom she is said to have practised her abominable arts. This extraordinary woman died at Brussels in 1708, in the enjoyment of triumphs over her enemies. “How many people of Versailles, how many old acquaintances, did she not find (Villeroy among others) among those prisoners with whom the conqueror of Oudenarde and of Malplaquet filled the fortresses of Germany and Flanders! She saw the throne of Louis XIV. tremble before the shocks given to it by her son ; she witnessed the defeats and the humiliation of the court that had banished her; and the mother of Eugène expired tasting the last pleasure of pride and vengeance."
Marie and Hortense Mancini, who came to Paris after the Fronde, were educated at the convent of the Filles Sainte-Marie at Chaillot, and when they were brought from thence to the Louvre, their contemporaries said that the cardinal intended them as companions to the king in the place of Olympe,-an apparently scandalous supposition, yet which, M. Renée says, '“ ne choque en rien les vraisemblances." Marie was not successful at first; the king preferred Mademoiselle d'Argencourt; but being on the point of death from a fever contracted during the war in the Low Countries, Louis XIV. was so affectionately nursed by the Italian, that
he felt bound to reciprocate her attentions from gratitude, and although not remarkable for beauty of person, Marie possessed such a highly cultivated mind that she soon became a first favourite:
Le roi, notre monarque illustre,
Et la perle des précieuses. Somaize also gives a place to Marie Mancini in his great “Dictionnaire des Précieuses.” In the pride of her affection, Marie disdained the interests of the queen and even those of her uncle the cardinal, seeking for the honour and welfare of her lover, whom she did everything in her power to educate in that independence of character which had not yet manifested itself in him. A change came upon the scene when Louis started with his court for Lyons to meet his proposed bride, Margaret of Savoy. Marie, however, nothing dismayed, " chevauchait à ses côtés," for the greater part of the journey had in those times to be performed on horseback. When a halt took place, Hortense and Marie-Anne amused the queen, whilst Marie was with the king. Louis was pleased at first sight with his intended, but Marie, or some one else—most likely Marie-so calumniated the young princess, representing her as humpy, that the king soon grew cool, and was in a happy condition to receive the overtures of Don Antonio Pimental, who arrived at Lyons to supersede the alliance with the house of Savoy by one with the Infanta of Spain. The Duke of Savoy rode off in disgust, the cardinal comforted the mother with a pair of earrings, and as to Margaret herself, she is said to have preserved an admirable tranquillity and reserve under such painful circumstances.
Marie had, however, gained a step, and she was now at the height of her favour with the king. It is even said, when Don Juan of Austria arrived with his folle, called Capiton, to cement the matrimonial alliance with Spain, that Louis XIV. spoke openly to the cardinal, and said he preferred to wed his niece, and that the cardinal objected. His objections have been supposed to have been founded on state policy, the importance of an alliance with Spain, and the hostility that would be aroused among all parties, the queen, the French people, and throughout Europe, at such an opportunity for securing peace being thrown away for one of the cardinal's nieces. M. Amédée Renée, however, prefers á less likely and more domestic explanation of the fact, in the circumstance that Marie despised her uncle, and fancied herself influential enough to succeed in winning the king without the assistance of either queen or cardinal. If so, she made a great mistake ; for Mazarin, going to the conferences in the Pyrenees, did not choose to leave Marie with the king, but sent her, with her two younger sisters, to the citadel of Brouage. The king is said to have cast himself on his knees to the inflexible minister. As to the proud Marie, she turned to the monarch in tears, and taunted him : “ Vous m'aimez, vous êtes roi, et je pars!" If the first version of this story is accepted, that Marie was sacrificed to political exigencies, it is a relieving point in Mazarin's otherwise despicable character; if, however, it was a mere quarrel between uncle and niece, it only adds to the turpitude and insignificance of the minister. The correspondence, however,
that followed between Mazarin and the king, as also with his niece, when he discovered that the lovers were in active correspondence with one another, are sufficient to establish that M. Amédée Renée's view of the subject is not the correct one, and that the cardinal really sacrificed his own and his niece's interests to those of the king and the country which he had so long served. Mazarin showed himself upon this occasion to have been a worthy successor of Richelieu.
Marie managed to have another interview with the king at St. Jean d'Angely, and, as might naturally be expected, the passion of both parties was only increased by opposition. The cardinal, however, triumphed; the marriage of Louis XIV, and of the Infanta of Spain was consummated, and a matrimonial arrangement was made for Marie with the Connétable Colonna, in order that she might be removed altogether from Paris, where it was justly opined her presence would interfere with the happi. ness of the newly-wedded royal couple.
The very idea of such an alliance threw Marie into a state of despair. Unable to wed the king, she would have preferred Charles of Lorraine, who had shown her marked attentions; but the cardinal was inexorable, and she was removed to Milan, where her nuptials were celebrated like one going to a sacrifice. Still the first years of her wedded life are said to have been happy enough. Prince Colonna was to her “un mari facile, indulgent, fort épris.” Everthing was done, also, to render her residence at the Palais Colonna agreeable. Conversaziones, concerts, balls, and plays succeeded to one another, to the great scandal of the Romans, where the ladies lived in retirement. In the course of time Marie bore three sons to the connétable, the eldest of whom married a daughter of the Duke of Medina Celi, minister in Spain. But in the course of time, also, the affections of the connétable and those of his lady grew cool, and from coolness sprang aversion. M. Amédée Renée tells us that, having suffered greatly in childbed, Marie "recourut au remède le plus héroïque pour éviter de nouveaux périls.” She severed herself from her husband, but it does not appear whether she did as much with her old lover, the Chevalier of Lorraine, who had joined her at Rome, and with whom, the Duke of Nevers, her brother, and her sister Hortense, each successive day was passed in some new pleasure, promenade, cavalcade, collation, or hunting-party. The connétable, on his side, sought for indemnification in the person of Princess Ghigi. The relations of La Connétable, as Marie was called, with the chevalier became at length so notorious, that, with the perspective of an imprisonment at Palliano, a stronghold of the connétable's on the frontiers of the Roman States, she fled with Hortense to Civita Vecchia, whence they made their escape in a felucca to Provence. The two sisters were, however, arrested at Aix, disguised in the habiliments of the male sex. Hortense was allowed to proceed into Savoy, whilst Marie found a temporary shelter in the Abbaye du Lys. But not remaining quiet, and insisting upon seeing the king, she was also sent after her sister into Savoy. Nor did she remain there long, for, quarrelling with the duke, she left Savoy for the Low Countries, where she was arrested and imprisoned in the citadel of Antwerp. Upon her liberation thence she proceeded to Spain, to try her fortunes in that country, but at Madrid they placed her in a convent as a dangerous person. The connétable, her husband, also came over from Italy to see her, but it does
not appear that they came to terms of reconciliation. The Marchioness of Villars wrote of her even at this epoch: “C'est vraiment un caractère original, qu'on ne peut assez admirer, à le voir de près comme je le vois. Elle a ici un amant.” The latter appears to have been an indispensable contingent to the Mancinis at all times. The connétable, however, did not admire these proceedings, and he had the fair and frail one imprisoned in the Alcasar of Segovia. Different convents in Spain served each in their turn as a prison for this unfortunate lady: “ Elle revint en France, assure-t-on ; et cette femme, qui avait vécu dans les grandeurs et qui s'était vue si près d'un trône, ne laissa point de traces de ses derniers pas."
What a melancholy exit! It is possible, her biographer says, that the cardinal, in opposing her marriage with Louis XIV., saved him from a fate similar to that of Louis XVI. But is the suggestion a fair one on any grounds ? Was Marie Antoinette guilty? and had Marie wedded Louis XIV., was the character of that monarch as weak as that of Louis XVI.? Proud, clever, and courageous as Marie was, is it likely that she could ever have ruled le Grand Monarque as Marie Antoinette did Louis XVI.? And even laying that aside, is it at all likely that Louis XIV. would have been more constant to Marie than he was to any one else? “ Dans sa chûte profonde,” concludes her biographer, “elle contemplait peut-être avec orgueil le règne de Louis XIV. Elle n'a eu qu'une page, il est vrai, mais cette page couvre sa vie, et l'histoire n'oubliera pas ces mots charmants : Vous m'aimez, vous êtes roi, et je
With all her faults, it is impossible not to admit that Marie was one of the most remarkable characters of the day, and one of the nieces of Mazarin most to be pitied. Whatever might have been the results of her marriage with Louis XIV., it is admitted that she was his saving genius by inspiring him with a just and royal pride, and it by no means follows that she would have been a Marie Antoinette to him; on the contrary, if we are to believe the Duchess of Mazarin, her sister, and a good authority, she was chaste when she wedded Colonna. The loves of Louis and Marie were first loves on both sides, and whether it was from fear and dislike on the part of the cardinal, or from the necessities of state policy, still was Marie sacrificed alike by king and minister.
Hortense Mancini, the next in succession, had as many suitors as Penelope. First on the list came our own Charles II. when an exile. The cardinal had somehow or other neglected to consult his niece's horoscope, for he twice declined a banished prince whom he lived to see soon afterwards restored to his throne. Or was it that he deemed it more suitable to offer a little girl of fourteen or fifteen years of age to the veteran Turenne ? Be it so or not, the latter had the good sense to excuse himself on the plea of absence of inclination on the part of the young lady herself. Next on the list came the Prince of Portugal, whose want of success is involved in obscurity. It is the same with respect to the Duke of Savoy, who became a competitor for her hand. Mazarin appears to have had a complicated matrimonio-political game in view. He wished to detach Coligny from Condé by an alliance with Hortense, but the gallant soldier was not to be caught by such a bait, however tempting.
Mazarin then turned his thoughts to the Prince of Courtenay, but he soon gave up the idea ; the Courtenays, albeit de
scendants of Louis-le-Gros, and once rulers at Constantinople, were almost penniless, and of all his nieces, Mazarin favoured Hortense most, and intended her for his heir. When Charles II. reascended his throne, negotiations were once more opened by his queen-mother Henrietta; but whether Charles himself was spiteful, or Mazarin dissatisfied, the negotiation fell to the ground.
All this time a youth of low parentage, Armand de la Porte, son of a soldier of fortune, Marshal de la Meilleraye, loved Hortense for her own sake, and that to such a degree that he used to say . he would wed her even if he was to die three months afterwards. Mazarin, returning from the conferences at the Pyrenees, stricken by death, selected this true lover for his heir, on the condition that he would assume his name and
Thus for the trouble of wedding the person he loved, one of the prettiest women in France too, this fortunate youth became Duke of Mazarin, one of the wealthiest men in the kingdom, and governor of Alsace, Brittany, and Vincennes. The cardinal, dying shortly afterwards, the young couple went to reside at the Palais Mazarin, which is said to have surpassed the Louvre in magnificence.
Unfortunately, with all these wondrous advantages, there was no happiness for Armand de la Porte. It seems quite enough that a Mazarin should be concerned that there should be evil spirits in the house. The frequent visits that the king paid to the duke's wife came first to disturb his equanimity. Armand loved his Hortense too much to be a “mari facile" after the fashion of the Mercœurs, the Contis, the Colonnas, and the Soissons. He determined to remove his wife from the scene of temptation, and with this view he travelled about from one place to another. “ L'image du roi, et peut-être de beaucoup d'autres, le poursuivait, et ne laissait reposer nulle part ce juif errant de la jalousie,” says M. Renée, thereby sadly implicating the character of a young wife and mother. Jealousy at length drove the unfortunate duke mad. He took offence, as did the Jansenists of the Fronde, with the naked statues of Italy, and the licentiousness of the paintings of Titian and Corregio. He did not, like Tartufe, throw his handkerchief at them, but he daubed his paintings, and broke his statues with a hammer. Colbert, sent to the Palais Mazarin by the king, alone succeeded in saving a few chefs-d'cuvre. Not satisfied with these extravagances, he told the king that the angel Gabriel had warned him that misfortunes would overtake him if he did not give up his connexion with Mlle de la Vallière, but the king laughed at him. This same madman was engaged in perpetual lawsuits. He had some five hundred in reference to the cardinal's estates alone. He expressed no surprise ; he used to say, he knew that they were wrongly acquired. Another peculiarity he had, and which is alluded to by Voltaire in his letters, was to appoint his attendants by lottery; and thus his doctor became a groom, and his chaplain a cook.
It was natural that matrimonial felicity could not long last between such a man and a Mancini. Hortense ran away from his mad tricks, and took shelter at her brother's house. A reconciliation was effected; but, wearied out, she at length sought protection within the walls of the abbey of Chelles, the abbess of which was her husband's aunt. The duke, however, interfered with the king, and got her removed by force to the convent of the Filles de Sainte-Marie de la Bastille. Here she found a