Court festivities—The Queen’s ballet—A gallant prelate—A poetical almoner—Insolence of the royal favourite—Unhappiness of the Queen—Weakness of Henry—Intrigue of Madame de Villars—The King quarrels with the favourite—They are reconciled—Madame de Villars is exiled, and the Prince de Joinville sent to join the army in Hungary—Mortification of the Queen—Her want of judgment—New dissension in the royal menage—Sully endeavours to restore peace—Mademoiselle de Sourdis—The Court removes to Blois—Royal rupture—A bewildered minister—Marie and her foster-sister—Conspiracy of the Dues de Bouillon and de Biron—Parallel between the two nobles—The Comte d’Auvergne—Ingratitude of Biron—He is betrayed—His arrogance—He is summoned to the capital to justify himself—He refuses to obey the royal summons—Henry sends a messenger to command his presence at Court—Precautionary measures of Sully—The President Jeannin prevails over the obstinacy of Biron—Double treachery of La Fin—The King endeavours to induce Biron to confess his crime—Arrest of the Duc de Biron and the Comte d’Auvergne—The royal soiree—A timely caution—Biron is made prisoner by Vitry, and the Comte d’Auvergne by Praslin—They are conveyed separately to the Bastille—Exultation of the citizens—Firmness of the King—Violence of Biron—Tardy repentance—Trial of Biron—A scene in the Bastille—Condemnation of the Duke—He is beheaded—The subordinate conspirators are pardoned—The Duc de Bouillon retires to Turenne—Refuses to appear at Court—Execution of the Baron de Fontenelles—A salutary lesson—The Comte d’Auvergne is restored to liberty—Revolt of the Prince de Joinville—He is treated with contempt by the King—He is imprisoned by the Duc de Guise—Removal of the Court to Fontainebleau—Legitimation of the son of Madame de Verneuil—Unhappiness of the Queen—She is consoled by Sully—Birth of the Princesse Elisabeth de France—Disappointment of the Queen—Soeur Ange.
The convalescence of the Queen was the signal for a succession of festivities, and the whole winter was spent in gaiety and dissipation; banquets, ballets, and hunting-parties succeeded each other with bewildering rapidity; and so magnificent were several of the Court festivals that even some of the gravest historians of the time did not disdain to record them. The most brilliant of the whole, however, and that which will best serve to exemplify the taste of the period, was the ballet to which allusion has already been made as given in honour of the King by his royal consort, and in which Marie de Medicis herself appeared. In order to heighten its effect she had selected fifteen of the most beautiful women of the Court, Madame de Verneuil being, according to the royal promise, one of the number; and the first part of the exhibition took place at the Louvre. The entertainment commenced with the entrance of Apollo and the nine Muses into the great hall of the palace, which was thronged with native and foreign princes, ambassadors, and ministers, in the midst of whom sat the King with the Papal Nuncio on his right hand. The god and his attendants sang the glory of the monarch, the pacificator of Europe; and each stanza terminated with the somewhat fulsome and ungraceful words: