1636: The Cardinal Virtues – Snippet 05

1636: The Cardinal Virtues – Snippet 05

“Beringhien,” Louis said. “Who brought this note?”

“Madame de Chevreuse, Sire,” he answered. “She was most furtive.”

“Indeed.” He took the letter and tucked it into his doublet. “I can imagine.”

“Is there anything amiss, Majesty?”

“The queen requests my presence. She — she wishes me to visit her cabinet.” He stood in the middle of the room, arms hanging loosely at his sides. His valet was hesitant to speak; in the candlelight he could see a faint sweat on his master’s brow.

Finally Louis walked to the sideboard, where a crystal decanter and two goblets were laid. Beringhien moved to pour wine for the king, but Louis waved him away. He poured wine into a glass, spilling some onto the table. He took a long drink.

“Shall I send word that you are not available, Majesty?”

“No — no. I shall go.” He walked slowly past, holding out the glass. Beringhien took it from him and watched as he went through the door and into the hall.


As the king stood outside the queen’s chamber, he wondered to himself what Anne intended. There had been so many ploys, so many embarrassments, so many times that his discomfort and awkwardness had made him an object of ridicule among her ladies. He had thought that this progress was evidence that in the end Anne was truly what she had said — the queen of France: not his tormentor, not an estranged, bitter, childless Spaniard. He couldn’t be wrong — could he? Not after all this?

He knocked at the door. Madame de Chevreuse opened it, a candle in her hand.

“Majesty,” she said, bowing. “The queen will be so happy to see you.” She beckoned him within. He hesitated, then crossed the threshold. The duchess closed the door behind him and gestured toward the bedroom. There were no ladies in sight; the sitting-room was empty. Madame de Chevreuse handed him the candle, bowed again, and withdrew into the shadows.

He knew what was intended as he took the candle-holder in his hand. He felt like walking away; he felt like running. He was sweating and shivering: and even if there was no one watching while he stood there.

Then he realized that this was a test as well. If he walked away from this, everyone would know and the deception they’d planned at Fontainebleau would be seen as a transparent lie.

If this was one last act of spite by his queen, then he would have to accept it and play it to the end.

He walked slowly toward the bedroom. In the dim light, he could see the queen of France alone on her bed, waiting.


The cardinal was not amused.

Pierre Corneille was a thorough courtier and accustomed to swings in a patron’s mood, whether king or cardinal; he kept his eyes averted and did not speak.

Richelieu paced back and forth, leaving the poet to stand uncomfortably before him.

“You’re quite sure?”

“It is without doubt, Eminence. The king left his chambers and made his way to those of the queen.”


“He was only accompanied by the duchess, Eminence. She brought him the note.”

Richelieu extended his hand. Corneille reached within his doublet and drew out the scented page. It had been a trifling thing to slip in and purloin it. The distracted king and his dullard valet would probably not even notice it was gone.

Corneille handed it to the cardinal, a slight odor of the queen’s scent wafting up from it. Richelieu did not seem to take notice other than a slight wrinkling of his patrician nose. He opened it and scanned its contents.

When he was done he flourished it in front of the poet. “Do you know what this means?”

“I am not sure, Eminence.”

“It means — ah.” Richelieu made as if to toss it aside, thought better of it and lowered his hand. “It means that our lady queen continues to be the same devious soul she has always been. She seeks to seduce him. Seduce him! Mother of God. I cannot imagine.”

“Eminence, the king went willingly to her chamber –”

Richelieu held his hand up.

“Do you question our sovereign?”

“No, of course not, but . . .”


Corneille’s experience as a courtier gave him the intuition to know when his tongue had outrun his good sense. He realized that this was one of those times. One false word, one improper inclination and . . .

“Nothing, Eminence. Nothing at all. I ask your indulgence if I have spoken out of turn.”

Richelieu did not answer: he made him stand there at least a minute longer than was necessary. Corneille enjoyed being one of the favored poets at court — but as always, there was no doubt that it was as easy to lose that position as it was hard to gain it in the first place.

“You have a mission, Monsieur Corneille. You will ride to Fontainebleau and present yourself to Monseigneur Mazarin and with my compliments deliver a note which I shall compose. You will be sure to do this right away, before the royal party arrives.”

“But — Eminence — they are due to arrive there this night.”

“Then you should undertake to find a fast horse, Monsieur. And you should depart at once to fulfill this mission.”


From the window overlooking the courtyard, Jules Mazarin watched for the approach of the royal procession.

By the late afternoon light he opened and reread the letter from Cardinal Richelieu that the foppish poet Corneille had delivered a few hours earlier. The poet had ridden all night from Paris to Fontainebleau to bring it. Exhausted, Corneille had come into the palace looking for him: he made sure to be found in the chapel, assuming the proper air of sanctity and humility. He didn’t know how much Corneille knew about the reason for Mazarin’s presence here at the palace, but there was no reason to cause further idle gossip. Now, he assumed, the poet was in some tavern in Melun recovering from the stress that the cardinal had imposed on him.

Richelieu’s letter was considerate. Ruthless, but considerate.

There is some possibility that the king lay with his queen last night. There is also some possibility that our monarch will have become so discomfited by her approach that he may be unwilling to proceed. I will not pretend that it makes our task and your position any easier. Indeed, it may make it quite perilous.

It only slightly reassured him to think that Richelieu was concerned for his welfare. But His Eminence was two days’ ride away, and wouldn’t be subject to summary prosecution should the king’s mood turn against their plan.

And what a plan! To bring an heir to the kingdom of France they had decided — the four of them: king and queen, cardinal and . . . tool of the state, he supposed . . . to allow the tool to lie with the queen in the hope that this union would be more successful than the ones King Louis himself had attempted.

Was there something wrong with the royal seed? The cardinal had suggested that up-timer science considered it a distinct possibility: not that Louis did not want to father a child, but that he did not have the capability to do so. There were some at the court who said, behind their hands or in private gossip, that the king . . . walked on the other side of the avenue. Women seemed to make him nervous, especially the queen.

Mazarin looked back down at the cardinal’s letter.

I rely upon your discretion and your judgment to complete the task that is so crucial to the realm. Even more, I rely on the blessing of the Almighty to guide our counsels and vouchsafe our success.

Corneille had his stresses. But Mazarin himself had some stress coming. Assuming he wasn’t clapped in irons as soon as the royal party arrived, he would have to ask the queen the crucial question: did she sleep with her king?

It was a question that he would rather not ask.

In the distance he could see the dust rising off the road, caught by the slanting rays of late afternoon light — the horsemen and carriages carrying the king and queen and entourage.

All Mazarin could think of was an up-timer expression.



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21 Responses to 1636: The Cardinal Virtues – Snippet 05

  1. Greg Noel says:

    Why in the world would Louis XIII be shy with women? He was a king in an absolute monarchy. If he pointed at a girl on the street and said, “Take off your clothes and lie down,” she would have no choice but to comply. Now, he could be nervous that his manipulative queen was setting him up for some embarrassment, but he sure shouldn’t be having performance anxiety like Silvius for Phebe. (I’m not saying that he would be crass enough to take a woman on the streets, but he had already exiled his mother and executed her followers, so he was no stranger to the power of the king.)

    • Randomiser says:

      Maybe he was only marginally potent with them? In any case your complaint is very one dimensional in assessing kings. Human psychology is much more comp!icated than that. May as well say ‘Why would he let himself be dominated by Richelieu?’

    • Joe says:

      There has been speculation over the years that Louis XIII was gay, appearing to have little interest in women in general and in his wife in particular. That same speculation has long hinted that Louis XIV was not his son, but rather that of someone like Mazarin, who was quite close to the queen and was even rumored to have secretly married her after her husband’s death. Furthermore, the king knew of the true parentage of the dauphin and accepted it, claiming to be his father for the good of France, rather than see his brother ascend the throne after him.

      • Lyttenstadt says:

        [i]…walked on the other side of the avenue.[/i]

        IIRC, at that time in France the syphilis was called “the Italian” disease, and the homosexuality – “the Italian sin”. Ironically enough, the rest of Europe replaced “Italian” with “French” in this euphemisms.

        “Walked on the other side of the avenue” sounds… lame. I bet, there were better time-period euphemism to describe that. Not that it wasn’t videspread at the time. King James I of England had male lovers. Charles I was, probably, romantically involved with Buckhingham, and really began heir-making business only after his “favorite’s” death.

        Currently, I’m re-reading Gedeon Tallemant des Reax’s [i]Historiettes[/i]. There is a chapter about Louis relationship with Marquis de Cinq-Mars (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Coiffier_de_Ruz%C3%A9,_Marquis_of_Cinq-Mars). According to des Reax, the king took youn Marquis to his bedchamber every evening and “was seen covering his hands with kisses”.

        But there were men ([i]minions[/i]) in Louis life before that – see here http://books.google.ru/books?id=zLWTqBmifh0C&pg=PA511&dq=%22louis+XIII%22+homosexual+luynes&as_brr=3&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=%22louis%20XIII%22%20homosexual%20luynes&f=false

        • Cobbler says:

          Lyttenstadt, if you want text to appear in italics, type before the text. (I’m leaving an unnecessary space so it will print.) To close the italics, type (Same extra space.) For boldface, replace em with strong.

          • Cobbler says:

            Oops. The symbols are and to close, . I hope that will show what I mean.

            • Cobbler says:

              Nope. Maybe if I spell them;

              The symbols are, Type “less than arrow”, Type em, then Type “greater than” arrow. To close the italics it’s “less than arrow”, “slash” em “greater than arrow”. For boldface replace the em with strong.

              • Lyttenstadt says:

                Me bad – I got used to forum codes for italics, bold etc.

                Here you use not [i].

                Like this

                Historiettes are awesome. Some NSFW stories and toilet jokes (like the one about Scot’s captain… or queen’s Margo lover) are neveretheless hilarious.

    • laclongquan says:

      French court that time was a snake pit. That kind of place usually full of stress, which is one of major factor lead to ED as well as woman-hating. Considering his terrifying mother,I am not so surprised that he fear woman.

      There’s absolute monarch, and there’s ABSOLUTE monarch, which is Louis 14th. Louis 13th was not at that level yet, what with many MANY great nobles. So no, he couldnt point to a woman on the street and demand his droit du seigneur or whatever, assuming in case he’s blinded with lust and act stupid.

      • laclongquan says:

        Also, dont underestimate that queen. Dont forget, in Three Musketeers, 20 years later, and 10 later, she’s the single woman who cast shadow on all of them. Even more than Milady which is fictional.

      • Lyttenstadt says:

        Well, his daddy Henry IV was exactly this type of lady’s person ;) He wasn’t particularly “picky” either. Not on the level of Polish-Saxon king Sigismund August (the Strong), but pretty close.

  2. daveo says:

    I realize that Flint wanted to get Mazarin is France earlier than he did historically. But this whole series from snippets 1 to today’s seems to me unlikely. All that is really needed is that Anne become pregnant and bear Louis the XIV. No matter who the father really is.

    • Lyttenstadt says:

      People tend to forget, that besides future Louis XIV she also gave birth to his younger brother – a rather… fabulous… future duc d’Olreans.

  3. jimhacker says:

    Sadly, I’m finding all this rather tedious and uninteresting. Perhaps that’s in part due to it being drawn out over snippets rather than a quick chapter of a book. But it feels like a pretty weak opening to me.

    • Escape Zeppelin says:

      I don’t know, I kind of like it. The courts of France and Spain have been a big blank spot in the 1632 universe and I’m interested to see where this goes. As for bringing Mazarin into the inner court earlier it makes a lot of sense. They know he’s absolutely loyal to the crown and is possibly the father of Louis XIV since Louis XIII either can’t or won’t produce a heir up to this point. (In reality it’s very unlikely he actually is but the Grantville histories are probably not that clear on such an obscure topic.) Richelieu has been bringing in the talented and loyal ahead of schedule based on the Grantville histories so I’d have been surprised if the young and competent future minister of France wasn’t brought on board. Especially since the histories show he could work closely with the Queen, something that’s increasingly important considering France’s shaky position regarding the King’s rebellious brother. From Richelieu’s position keeping the current king on the throne and securing an heir is vital both for the future of France and for preserving his own head.

      • jimhacker says:

        This is why I’m so dissapointed – I was so looking forward to this book.

        I think that what we’re reading now would probably be fine with me if the book was already established. But while I find the possibilities interesting, and these machinations might lead to some good stuff, this opening is really not grabbing my attention.

    • Tweeky says:

      I have to say that the parts between Louis XIII and his wife are rather tedious.

      • Books first, food later. says:

        Tedious? I suppose. Mostly they depress the hell out of me. And I fear it’s only going to get worse from here. Darn it.

        • Richard H says:

          Every story I have read about marital relations among the French aristocracy have been depressing. Generally starting with the “sir” and “madam” form of address between husband and wife, and all that implies.

          • Tweeky says:

            I would’ve thought that Louis XIII and Queen Anne in private (No servants around) would act informally like any husband and wife.

            • marcel says:

              The idea of “No Servants Around” is hilarious. The king had servants tuck him in at night, not to mention servants hiding behind the tapestries and screens waiting to wait on him. People spying from the next room, people witnessing who he slept with, etc. Keeping secrets was a major undertaking, including riding to hunt, whispering in an ear during a concert, using the mistress as a go-between, etc.
              In Louis XIV days (reigned 1643-1715, not ten years from 1636), with the nobility forced to live at court, even dukes lived a family to a room at Versailles. Also, palaces don’t have hallways, you get from one room to another through other families’ rooms. Including those rooms that entire families live in, mom & dad, children, mistresses, retainers, servants, all in one room, large rooms I’ll grant you, but still.
              Think of this: the real musketeers (Aramitz, d’Athos, Porthau and count d’Artagnan were real Gascon minor nobles and musketeers) were a unit of nobles who couldn’t find a patron at court to get them into a fancy unit.

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