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The Life of Marie de Medicis — Volume 1   By: (1804-1862)

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First Page:

[Illustration: MARIE DE MEDICIS, SECOND QUEEN OF HENRY IV OF FRANCE.]

THE LIFE

OF

MARIE DE MEDICIS

Queen of France

CONSORT OF HENRI IV, AND REGENT OF THE KINGDOM UNDER LOUIS XIII

BY

JULIA PARDOE

AUTHOR OF

'LOUIS XIV AND THE COURT OF FRANCE IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY,' 'THE COURT AND REIGN OF FRANCIS THE FIRST,' ETC.

IN THREE VOLUMES VOL. I

1890

TO

MR. AND MRS. CHARLES BECKET

(OF HEVER COURT, KENT)

These Volumes

ARE VERY AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED

BY

THE AUTHOR

PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION

All the existing records of European royalty do not, probably, comprise the annals of a life of greater vicissitude than that which has been chosen as the subject of the present work. We find numerous examples in history of Queens who have suffered exile, imprisonment, and death; but we believe that the unfortunate Marie de Medicis is the only authenticated instance of a total abandonment on the part alike of her family and friends, which terminated almost in starvation. Certain it is that after having occupied the throne of France, presided over its Councils, and given birth to the ancestor of a long line of Princes, she was ultimately indebted to the sympathy and attachment of a foreign artist, of whom she had once been the zealous patron, for a roof under which to terminate her miserable existence! The whole life of this ill fated Queen is, indeed, full of startling contrasts from which the mind shrinks back appalled; and her entire career is so freighted with alternate grandeur and privation that it is difficult to reconcile the possibility of their having fallen to the share of the same individual; and this too in an age when France, above all other nations, boasted of its chivalry, and when some of the greatest names that have ever figured in its annals gave grace and glory to its history.

The times were, moreover, as remarkable as the men by whom they were illustrated; for despite the civil and foreign wars by which they were so unhappily distinguished, the arts flourished, and the spread of political liberty became apparent; although it is equally certain that they were at the same time fatal alike to the aristocracy and to the magistrature; and that they rapidly paved the way to the absolutism of Louis XIV, to the shameless saturnalia of the Regency, and to the dishonouring and degrading excesses of Louis XV, who may justly be said to have prepared by his licentiousness the scaffold of his successor.

During several centuries the French monarchs had indulged in a blind egotism, which rendered them unable to appreciate the effects of their own errors upon their subjects. L'ÉTAT C'EST MOI had unfortunately been practically their ruling principle long ere Louis XIV ventured to put it into words. To them the Court was the universe, the aristocracy the nation, and the Church the corner stone of the proud altar upon which they had enthroned themselves, and beyond which they cared not either to look or listen. A fatal mistake fatally expiated! Yet, as we have already remarked, the system, dangerous and hollow as it was, endured for centuries endured until crime was heaped on crime, and the fearful holocaust towered towards Heaven as if to appeal for vengeance. And that vengeance came! It had been long delayed; so long indeed that when the brilliant courtiers of Versailles were told of disaffection among the masses, and warned to conciliate ere it was too late the goodwill of their inferiors, they listened with contemptuous carelessness to the tardy caution, and scorned to place themselves in competition with those untitled classes whom they had long ceased to regard as their fellow men. But the voice of the people is like the stroke of the hammer upon the anvil; it not only makes itself heard, but, however great may be the original resistance, finishes by fashioning the metal upon which it falls after its own will.

During the reign of Louis XIII this great and fatal truth had not yet been impressed upon the French nation, for the popular voice was stifled beneath the ukase of despotism; and even the tiers état important as the loyalty of that portion of a kingdom must ever be to its rulers were treated with disdain and contumely; but beneath all the workings of his government (or rather the government of his minister, for the son of Marie de Medicis was a monarch only in name), may be traced the undercurrent of popular indignation and discontent, which, gradually swelling and rising during the two succeeding reigns, finally overthrew with its giant waves the last frail barrier which still upreared itself before a time honoured throne... Continue reading book >>


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