1636: The Cardinal Virtues – Snippet 35

1636: The Cardinal Virtues – Snippet 35

Chapter 20

Southern France

Étienne Servien made all possible speed away from Beville-le-Comte. Richelieu had been clinging to life when they had parted; God only knew whether he was still alive. His young Guard companion had not accompanied him to the queen’s place of retirement, but at Servien’s direction had been sent on his way back to Paris to seek out Tremblay and inform him of the events at Yvelines.

D’Aubisson had the advantage of youth and skill — he was a professional soldier — but at least in principle Servien had the signet of the most powerful man in France. It would not protect him as well as a good sword or helmet or hauberk, but it would have to do. No one needed to know that Richelieu hovered close to death — or that he had already passed on. Not even Servien himself knew.

It was on a need to know basis: and Servien did not apparently need to know. He had specific orders, issued long ago and reinforced in his last conversation with Richelieu.

You know what you must do. Go.

He was to make for Pau, the fortified capital of the province of Béarn, and present himself to the comte de Brassac et de Béarn. Neither Tremblay nor Richelieu had ever told him why: Servien, for his part, was not inclined to pursue the matter further — it was not in the repertoire of an intendant to ask questions, particularly on serious matters.

Pau was near the Spanish border; Béarn was nominally a part of the kingdom of Navarre, but it had come into the realm of France along with its most famous scion, King Henry IV of revered memory, who had been born in the Fortress of Pau.

It explained nothing about his own mission: why Béarn, what the comte might do for him, what — if anything — could be done about the duc de Vendôme or his likely employer, the duc d’Orleans. Word of the death of the king would reach Paris soon if it had not already done so. Rumors about the death of Richelieu would certainly follow. It was critically important that doubt in the matter persist as long as possible.

As for his own fate, Servien was pragmatic. There was nothing he could do — nothing, truly, that he should do, other than ride toward Pau, following Richelieu’s orders to the last.

To the last, he thought. Apt.

You know what you must do.

Go.

Paris

Long before Maillé-Brézé returned in state with the body of the murdered king, long before rumors of the ambush on the road began to circulate — long before it became apparent to most of those intimate to the circles of power in the capital that something had happened and something was wrong, Père Joseph, the cardinal de Tremblay took action.

Cardinal Richelieu had arranged with Tremblay that he would send a message by radio upon their arrival at the Château Baronville. The slightly-premature birth of the heir, if God had chosen to grant the kingdom a son, would work to their advantage: the prince, if prince he was, had not been expected for almost a month, and there were matters to attend to before the king’s (and therefore the cardinal’s) enemies were able to counter them. The radio was a marvelous up-time blessing, Tremblay knew; some in the clergy were dubious about whether it was somehow a tool of the Devil, but many of those learned men had the same feeling about all of the up-timers.

Theological debate was one thing. Pragmatic state politics was another.

When the message did not come in the evening, Tremblay was willing to ascribe it to the lateness of their probable arrival, or a malfunction of the radio, or uncertainty about the result — perhaps the queen was still in her labors, or there was as yet nothing to report. When the message did not come on the following morning he was more troubled.

A day later, when a few whispers began to traverse the Louvre and make their first ventures into Les Halles and elsewhere, Tremblay began to make provision for what the world might be like if Cardinal Richelieu was not in it.

****

Jean D’Aubisson had turned nineteen years old two days after Lady Day; he had been the youngest and least experienced of the cadre of Cardinal’s Guards in Richelieu’s escort on the journey to Beville-le-Comte. The others had joked with him, telling him that he certainly couldn’t expect to be a personal man-at-arms to the robe rouge until he could at least grow a proper beard. It had led to a few shoves and more than a little ill-feeling: however much the other Guardsmen professed their desire for simple, innocent fun at his expense, it came across more angry and resentful. He was the youngest, but he was also the most agile, the fastest blade, the best dancer . . . truly the best looking, with no comparison among the weary and scarred veterans that wore the red-on-white tabard and maroon cape of the Guard.

What he never expected was to be the only survivor.

It took a night and part of a day for him to reach the outskirts of Paris. He had left his maroon cape and most of the other accoutrements of his uniform at Clairefontaine. The passing of a few coins had obtained him nondescript traveling clothes; a little creative tailoring dispensed with insignia of rank and any identification of his family’s personal heraldry. He could have chosen an entirely different identity — but it would have meant giving up his fine mount and his weapons to sustain it: and he wasn’t about to surrender either.

He would be a simple, anonymous gentleman at arms, a provincial, perhaps in service to one of the lords who were even now streaming into the city at the rumor of the king’s death. He was scarcely noticed as he entered at the Porte St.-Antoine, riding close enough to be mistaken for a member of some troop attending one of the noblesse de robe who even now returned to their townhouses in Paris, riding far enough away that no bailiff or serjeant might decide to put him to work.

To go directly to the Palais-Cardinal would certainly have drawn attention, and possibly unwanted recognition. Instead, D’Aubisson went to the parish church of Saint-Étienne-des-Grès just off the Rue Saint-Victor, and hired a messenger to send a particular message to Cardinal Tremblay — a coded signal of distress, long rehearsed and memorized among the Guard.

It took only a few hours for Tremblay himself to appear: not in pectoral and full regalia as a Cardinal of the Church, but in his more accustomed attire as a Capuchin monk — gray hooded robe and sandals, coming into Saint-Étienne-des-Grès as a simple penitent. D’Aubisson was waiting for him in the alcove that held a black-painted limestone statue of the virgin, Notre Dame de Bonne Délivrance, the black Madonna of Paris.

“An interesting choice.”

D’Aubisson prided himself on his observational skill, but he jumped when Tremblay spoke from just a few feet away.

If he were bent on taking my life, D’Aubisson thought, I would be dead on the floor.

“Why do you say that?” he asked, recovering his composure.

Tremblay — in the more familiar habit and persona of a simple monk, came up to stand beside him, looking up at the statue. It was almost life-size, and set up on a plinth; the Blessed Mother smiled beatifically down at them, at once familiar and other-worldly, her expression impossible to read.

“This is where De Sales made his confession almost fifteen years ago. The Black Madonna . . . an object of veneration. Rather public, don’t you think?”

“It is easiest to be hidden in plain sight.”

“Pithy. An up-timer expression.”

“And quite accurate in your case, wouldn’t you say . . . Brother?”

“I assume that you have no intention to offend, nor intent to antagonize. But do not try me, boy. Walk with me.”

They left the alcove and began to walk slowly along the ambulatory, gazing up at the woodwork and stained glass as if they were awestruck penitents. At Tremblay’s direction, he provided a short, succinct description of the events in a low voice.

“We might be under observation,” Tremblay said to him. “But they shouldn’t be close enough to hear. Still, there is a chance that someone may have followed me here, or be spying on us now. But there is nothing to be done.

“Where is my good friend and our patron’s servant Étienne, then? Is he still with him now?”

“He was to ride out after I did.”

“And not accompany the . . . dignitaries.”

“No. He said that he was going to Pau, of all places. You do trust him,” D’Aubisson added.

“Of course,” Tremblay answered. “Well, at least as much as I trust anyone. Yourself included.”

“I feel as if I should be insulted.”

“Don’t trouble yourself,” Tremblay answered. “We must assume the worst — and we must also assume that the longer his enemies lack certainty about his situation and whereabouts, the better our lives will be.”

“What do you intend?”

“I have a mission for you to undertake, my fine young friend,” Tremblay said. D’Aubisson could scarcely make out the priest’s face within the hood; the day was overcast, with lowering clouds that made the gloom in the church nave shadowy and ponderous.

But he did hear a very soft and cynical laugh.

“I am eager to serve.”

“Good. You will take a message to a person I designate in a place I will reveal. The destination of that message will be the place to which the party will first travel.”

“How do you know that?”

“Her Majesty will be invited to consider this possibility,” Tremblay answered. “Indeed, she will choose it.”

“How can you be sure?”

“It is very simple,” Tremblay said. “One of her closest companions works directly for me.”

D’Aubisson didn’t seem surprised.

Tremblay reached into his sleeve and withdrew a small cloth scapular on a woven string. It bore a painted image of the Blessed Virgin with a crimson heart surrounded by a golden halo. He touched it to his lips and held it out to D’Aubisson.

“Wear this under your clothing, young man. Go — as soon as you can — to the Auberge Écossaise in Evreux. Present yourself to my . . . colleague, Brother Gérard. Tell him that he should shortly expect a very important visitor, who will need to be protected. He will know what to do.”

The young guardsman nodded. He took the scapular, kissed it, and put it around his neck, tucking it below his blouse.

“And then?”

“Return here. We have much to do.”

 

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21 Responses to 1636: The Cardinal Virtues – Snippet 35

  1. Cobbler says:

    Servien had the signet of the most powerful man in France. It would not protect him as well as a good sword or helmet or hauberk, but it would have to do.

    Hauberk? Really? Crécy taught the French the limits of link mail armor against the longbow. By Agincourt the French knights were cap-a-pied in plate. Seventeenth century armor faces the musket ball. It’s the age of the cuirassier. A well-made cuirass would stop swords, glance some musket balls, and slow the balls that punch through. A hauberk is useless against bullets and weighs more to boot.

    “It took only a few hours for Tremblay himself to appear: not in pectoral and full regalia as a Cardinal of the Church, but in his more accustomed attire as a Capuchin monk — gray hooded robe and sandals, coming into Saint-Étienne-des-Grès as a simple penitent.

    Surely the Capuchins wore brown? They did name that espresso drink a cappuccino because it matched the color of the Capuchin monks robe. They were also a descaled order—barefoot only, no sandals allowed.

    The more I see of the French nobility, the more they remind me of cats playing with mice. Entrapping an inferior with words, just to watch them squirm. It happens all the time in this book.

    In such an emergency, why is a Cardinal of the Church bothering to teasing this poor mouse-keteer? Tremblay makes Richelieu’s habitual courtesy look saintly.

  2. J says:

    Choosing gray is an understandable mistake. “Grey eminence” is a phrase that was inspired by du Tremblay. I would think more disturbing is the fact that du Tremblay was never a cardinal. He was considered for it, but died before it was made official. If this fact were to have gone back with Grantville, then it might have been applied early, but I don’t recall this in what I have read.

    • Cobbler says:

      We know Richelieu advanced Turenne in exactly that way. He could have done the same with du Tremblay. The change went unmentioned because, previously, we had no need to know.

      • J says:

        Richelieu couldn’t advance someone to cardinal though. That would require Papal approval. Also, I believe I recall there being a mention, in Cannon Law I think, where there were three new Cardinals, Father Larry and Mazarin being two. So it is possible that Pere Joseph is the third and I have simply forgotten.

        • Cobbler says:

          I wasn’t supposing Richelieu acted unilaterally. He is a member of the church hierarchy. He’s sworn vows of obedience. He wouldn’t break the rules that way.

          What he can do is work within the system to gain his ends. Skillfully enough—this is Richelieu we’re discussing—to have robed du Tremblay in red by now.

    • Bjorn Hasseler says:

      “Father Joseph got his hat and ring shortly after I did, since my appointment made His Holiness’ excuses for not elevating the man look pretty thin, and it wasn’t like an extra French cardinal more or less makes much difference these days.” – Mazzare speaking, chapter 14, _1635: The Cannon Law_

  3. Ed Thomas says:

    Maps are not as much fun as some other things in life but they’ll do fine for me right now. :-)

    Where is Louie D? Guessing Mazarin’s headed for Evreux. For convenience, I put Louie’s birthplace in the modern town of Epernon which is SW of Rambouillet Forest. The French version of Maptech has Evreux at 52.3 milies (84.2 k for you continental folks) from Epernon. So Mazarin is there by now. D’Aubisson should arrive well after the royal party is there. Assumption is he’s the employee Ttremblay’s talking about.

    Question. Does Tremblay have his own radio? Will his preparations for the world without Richy include moving R’s radio someplace where Gassy or that evil Soissons can’t get their paws on it.

    Pau is on the northern edga of the Pyrenees. You can’t go much further south in that part of France. Major Center in that area is Toulouse. Distance from Epernon to Pau is 472 mi (759 k) Servein ‘s gonna have a very sore butt and will have run through a lot of good horses by the time he reaches comte de Brassac et de Béarn. A puzzler here.

    Turenne If he heads SOUTH, a weak guesstimate of his destination would be Toulouse because of the Pau connection. If he goes down the Rhone and heads west via Avignon and Montpelier distance is 335 mi (539k). A more direct route west the mountains on the western side of the Rhone Valley through Le Puy-en-Velay and Rodez is 299 m (480k).

    If he goes EAST with the thought of getting up towards Paris he’s into the Loire Valley in 40 – 50 miles, then possibly barging up the Loire to Orleans which puts him within 50 – 60 miles of Paris.

    Can’t wait for Friday.

  4. Lyttenstadt says:

    While I’m immensly relieved now after seeing Richelieu’s agents actually doing something, there still remains A LOT of questions.

    1) “We might be under observation,” Tremblay said to him. “But they shouldn’t be close enough to hear. Still, there is a chance that someone may have followed me here, or be spying on us now. But there is nothing to be done.

    Just what happened to the whole web of spies and informants employed by our Good Cardinal? Why, in a span of 48 hours they became super ineffective in keeping the tubs on all potential traitors, opposition and enemy agents? Why did his own Guard and another Cardinal (allied to Richelieu) have to assume that?

    What, in the span of one day the number of enemy agents increased exponentally, while the “friendly” spies all became grossly incompenet?

    2) why Béarn

    Yeah, why Béarn indeed? One of the few remaining strongly pro-Hugenot strongholds with no love for Richelieu due to his role in the capture of La Rochelle. And while I’m not worried about the distance that Servien’d have to cover to reach it (with his ring he can negotiate acuisition of fresh horses, so I’ll give him a week – max). I’m more interested in what magic our good intendant would have to work to convince the Hugenots to support him.

    Why Béarn and not all other provinces that lie on the way to Paris? Why not secure their loyalty first, before Gaston &Co arrive from Italy?

    3) Why Her Majesty the Queen and the baby prince Louis just can’t go to Paris?

    Seriously – why? It’s not like it became SUDDENLY occupied by Gaston’s supporters in just one day. Or that all assets of both Richelieu and father Joseph SUDDENLY evaporated.

    It all boils down to “Why the “good guys” must be so incompetent”?

    • Cobbler says:

      I agree with much that you say. A lot of the choices and forces and events in this book seem plot driven rather than character driven or probability driven.

      I’m no fan of stories where the protagonists win because they are marginally less stupid than their antagonists.

      For all the Queen knows, it’s open season on royalty. No sniper’s license required. One grenade dropped on a Paris street, and Gaston has clear succession to the crown. Not jumping into a meat grinder doesn’t seem stupid to me.

      • Lyttenstadt says:

        One grenade dropped on a Paris street, and Gaston has clear succession to the crown

        Well, “one granade” proved to insufficient to kill Napoleon in the similar situation, n’est pas? ;)

        And, what is more important – what prevents Richelieu’s from devising some sort of “dead switch order”, that would target Gaston the very moment he enters France?

        Yeah, I know that it was a work of fiction – but, seriously, for a man of his power it’s rediculously easy to devise series of deadly ambushes, involving people not even knowing they were acting on cardinal’s orders. Why not to use this “kill-switch” to behead this potential Fronda even before it starts?

        For all the Queen knows, it’s open season on royalty.

        And why does she knows that? Don’t they have a web of agents in Paris to determine whether it’s true or not? The same web of agents, that could be used to uncover the potential plotters and then “apprehend” them, clearing the way for a triumphal return of the grieving Queen – with a rightful heir to the throne.

        • Ed Thomas says:

          I think you guys are being a bit harsh. The problem for both sides is they know what they know and they know what they don’t know but they don’t know what they don’t know.
          Richy’s guys, except for the one’s who’ve been dispatched on contingency-planned missions are in the dark as to what plans are should the King die. The vast majority of his apparatus doesn’t know what to do or think. And I don’t get the impression that Richy’s the kinda guy who encouraged his troops to free-lance. They also have to be looking over their shoulders becuz how did Gassy’s guys know where to hit Richy? Big leak or big miss?

          Gassy’s guys have a different sort of problem. They know that if something goes wrong he won’t hesitate to throw them under the bus. They undoubtedly have contingency plans for problems they expected, but this seems to be something a little out of the scope of their planning. Gassy is another guy who isn’t going to encourage creative free-lancing in his underlings.

          This is not a good time to be a spook in France, unless your boss is named Nasi.
          And maybe Tremblay’s wearing gray and sandals is just tradecraft to confound the minions of evil :-)
          Friday’s only 26 hours away!

          • Cobbler says:

            Gassy’s guys have a different sort of problem. They know that if something goes wrong he won’t hesitate to throw them under the bus.

            “Under the bus”? Surely we can do better.

            “Under the carriage” is too posh. Think of the phrase “carriage trade”.

            “You couldn’t drag me there with oxen and wain ropes” was a living image back then.

            Gaston should throw his allies under the wain.

        • Cobbler says:

          Well, “one granade” proved to insufficient to kill Napoleon in the similar situation, n’est pas? ;)

          When Napoleon left Elba, the Bourbons sent an army against him. He recruited them with bravura. “If any soldier of France wishes to kill your emperor, here I am!” By the time he entered Paris, he had that small army I keep mentioning. That makes a difference.

          We haven’t a clue what the Queen knows. While running for her life she may have learned to sing To Anacreon in Heaven in basso profondo. It seems unlikely, but so does most of this book. I am sure she hasn’t learned to trust blindly.

          Yes, Richelieu should have backup plans, with dead-man switches, in place. For any number of contingencies. It’s hard to say what those plans may be. So far they aren’t accomplishing much.

          Richelieu is a politician. But he is also a statesman, mindful of the long haul. Suppose someone pulled a Guy Fawkes and took out king, queen, cardinal in one big bang. Should his dead-man switch kill the remaining clear candidate for the throne? Is Richelieu willing to throw France into civil war for a just-in-case? So far there’s no sign that he has, but…we just don’t know.

          • Lyttenstadt says:

            2Ed Thomas

            The problem for both sides is they know what they know and they know what they don’t know but they don’t know what they don’t know.

            But it is the “Richeleu’s guys” faction which has the greatest capacity “to know”. ;) I.e. – to gather and pass on the information to all loyalists.

            They also have to be looking over their shoulders becuz how did Gassy’s guys know where to hit Richy? Big leak or big miss?

            Well, I think we all can agree here that it was more along the lines of the “plot necessity”. It happened “because reasons”.

            The fact that Richeleu’s of all people failed to see Gaston’s agents right before his long nose is an example of Badass decay trope. And that’s… sad. As if the moment he stopped being regarded as the “bad guy” of the series, his comptenece plummeted.

            2Cobbler

            Actually, I was referencing December 24 of 1800 assasination attempt on Napoleon. First Consul managed not only to survive it unsacathed, but also to milk it for all it’s worth, using as a pretext to nearly totally crush the remaining Jacobeans.

            Meaning – handed correctly, an assasination attempt on the Queen can be used by Mazarini &Co for all kinds of PR stuff and as an excuse, to start rooting out and execute Gaston’s sympathizers.

            • Cobbler says:

              Actually, I was referencing December 24 of 1800 assasination attempt on Napoleon. First Consul managed not only to survive it unsacathed, but also to milk it for all it’s worth, using as a pretext to nearly totally crush the remaining Jacobeans.

              Gotcha. My mind was running on the “Get safely into Paris” track.

              I said I wasn’t certain if or how many assassins Richelieu had available. But…At the end of some book, Richelieu gave firm instructions to all his agents to leave Mike Stearns alone. No, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest” bullshit, on pain of a long bad death. If Richelieu has assassins in the Germanys, he has assassins in France.

              You’d use the Queen as live bait for assassins? You believe in living dangerously, don’t you.

  5. Bren says:

    J is correct. The Canon Law page87 says that “LeClerc, the former “Father Joseph” and another of Richelieu’s creatures” joined Mazzare and Mazerini as 3 new cardinals.

  6. hank says:

    Cannon Law also has a brief scene with M. Gaston making a deal with Olivera for support from Spain.
    So does this count as a new thread in the ’32verse or is it the contiuation of the one that started with Galileo Affair?

  7. Ed Thomas says:

    I’m wondering if the bishop might have been the thing that gave things away. Is/was a bishop required to be present at royal births? Beville-le-Comte is only 4 or 5 miles from Chartres.

  8. LenS says:

    Ah. I’d wondered if they’d give us a D’artangnan.

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