1636: The Cardinal Virtues – Snippet 03
“Madame, I –”
“Sire.” She turned on her backless chair, affecting to see him for the first time, and allowed herself to fall to one knee. “I beg your pardon. I did not hear you come in.”
“It is nothing. A few moments.” In a few steps he was before her and extended his hand, which she took. He assisted her to rise.
“I do not wish Your Majesty to think me discourteous or ill-bred.” She smiled.
“I could not imagine such an accusation. You are my queen, my betrothed, and . . .” It was his turn to smile. “A true daughter of Hapsburg. I am pleased that you would receive me so early.”
“I am at Your Majesty’s service, as he knows.”
“Yes. I know.” He let go of her hand and walked slowly toward the patio doors, closed against autumn morning chill. Beyond, a beautiful day beckoned, the leaves on the trees in the enclosed garden just beginning to turn.
She followed, stopping at a respectful distance.
“We have not spoken for some time,” Louis said. “Not like — like this. The two of us. No courtiers, no cardinal. No confessors or — or — others.”
“As you wish.”
“Not as I wish: not, not just as I wish, Anne. I would have wished otherwise, I think, if things had been different.” He turned to face her. “I have reached the conclusion after many years that — that you have been ill-used. Perhaps I have been as well. When we married . . . when we were first together . . . we were not ready. Neither of us.”
Anne looked down at her hands, folded in front of her. She wanted to say, I was ready: I was trained to be ready. You were . . .
You were your mother’s son, she thought to herself. Marie de Medici, the domineering, controlling, manipulative queen mother who was Regent of France during Louis’ minority had done everything in her power to make sure she maintained that situation, even as she stunted the maturity of the king of France. Indeed, they fought two wars in the space of a year, his partisans on one side and hers on the other. But it took a personal, direct conflict to make him decide between mother and minister.
And to many, she thought, you simply became the cardinal’s creature. Weak, indecisive, tongue-tied . . . and even now without an heir of your body, or mine.
I was ready, she thought. But she did not say it.
“Things have not gone as planned, Sire,” she said at last.
“Louis,” she repeated, and though she spoke French very well it still sounded like Luis. “My king. I consented to this arrangement so that there might be a future for the royal house, but it would not have been my decision if it had not been decided for me. The . . . Cardinal, your servant, saw it as a practical solution, and I allow that it is so.”
“It was his arrangement, Anne,” he said. “But it is — it is my will.”
She looked down again at her folded hands. “I know it is your will, Sire. But you asked my consent — or, rather, your . . . servant . . . asked it, and I gave it. It is my choice to participate.”
“My servant loves France, and so do I.”
“And so do I, Louis. I am its queen. Though you sometimes doubted it, though there have been times that my actions and words have not truly convinced you that it is true, I love France.” She was not looking down now: she was looking directly into his eyes. She had not meant to be so emotional, but she felt that it was time for truth. After all of the intrigue, all of the scheming, all of the failed pregnancies and petty jealousies and court rivalries — after all of that — it was time for truth.
“I want — I want to believe you.”
“Do you not?” She continued to stare at him. “I cannot imagine what I must do to convince you that I speak the truth. Words fail me. Only deeds will do.” She reached forward and took his hand in both of hers. He did not pull away: there was no one to see the gesture, no one to titter at her sentimentality or at his discomfort. Perhaps Madame de Chevreuse or one of the other ladies of her chamber was watching the scene — or perhaps one of the cardinal’s spies, for that matter: they said that his eyes and ears were everywhere. She had already decided that she did not care. “We will undertake this and we will do it for France. For you, Sire, and even for . . . for your servant.”
“It is not for him.”
“Then it is for France, My Lord.”
“I can accept that. We do this for France, My Lady. For the France that will be — not what the up-timers speak of in their mysterious future past, but for our, for our France of the near future. I ask for a son, Anne, who will be king after me — another Louis. Louis the Fourteenth, when I am in my tomb.”
“I pray that is far from now, Sire. After all of this time you deserve to see that son, and perhaps many more.”
He smiled slightly, wistfully. “The nation has not always done well when there are many sons.”
She lifted the hand she still held between her own, and softly kissed it. His lip trembled as she did so, but he did not pull it away.
“For France,” she repeated, and let go of his hand, offering him a deep curtsey that would have made the sternest instructor in Madrid beam with delight.
“Inde vero, morte suae matris audita, reversus in Franciam, sic sanctitatis insistebat operibus quod ut ipsius jejunia vigilias et disciplinas multimodas pretereamus.
“Plura monseria et pauperum hospitalia constuxit, infirmos et decumbentos inibi visitando personalieter, et minibus propriis ac flexo genu eis cibaria ministrando . . .”
Cardinal Gondi, archbishop of Paris droned on, reciting Joinville’s account of the great deeds of the king’s blessed namesake: of his crusades against the infidel and of piety and devotion to works of humility, particularly after the death of his mother. The ceremony was held in the great church of Paris’ patron saint and his great church. When the oriflamme went abroad with King Louis IX — and others — the French knights had rallied to the cry of “Montjoie! Saint-Denis!” Montjoie meant ‘showing the way’, and Saint Denis was the bishop and martyr who had so alarmed the pagan priests of the Parisii that they beheaded him on the highest hill nearby, the mons martyrius — thus Montmartre.
The story didn’t end there, much to the delight of the hagiographers. After the deed was done, Denis picked up his head and walked several miles, preaching a sermon all the way. Where he stopped walking was consecrated with a shrine. Now the holy relics of both Saint Louis and Saint Denis lay beneath the altar of the great church on Montmartre that the blessed Sainte-Geneviève had originally begun fourteen centuries ago.
The king and queen rose to join in the Collect and attended closely to the words of the archbishop as he recited from the second letter to the Corinthians and the Gospel of Matthew:
You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
When they rose for the responsory —
Although they go forth weeping
Carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
Carrying their sheaves.
Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.
Louis thought he saw the hint of those tears in the eyes of his queen: and in that moment, with cloudy morning light filtering through the stained-glass of the great church, she had never seemed more beautiful.