This led to a tragedy, of which the facts were long obscure. They were carefully recorded, however, by the queen’s household chaplain, Father Le Bel; and there is also a narrative written by one Marco Antonio Conti, which confirms the story. Both were published privately in 1865, with notes by Louis Lacour.
The narration of the priest is dreadful in its simplicity and minuteness of detail. It may be summed up briefly here, because it is the testimony of an eye-witness who knew Christina.
Christina, with the marquis and a large retinue, was at Fontainebleau in November, 1657. A little after midnight, when all was still, the priest, Father Le Bel, was aroused and ordered to go at once to the Galerie des Cerfs, or Hall of Stags, in another part of the palace. When he asked why, he was told:
“It is by the order of her majesty the Swedish queen.”
The priest, wondering, hurried on his garments. On reaching the gloomy hall he saw the Marquis Monaldeschi, evidently in great agitation, and at the end of the corridor the queen in somber robes. Beside the queen, as if awaiting orders, stood three figures, who could with some difficulty be made out as three soldiers of her guard.
The queen motioned to Father Le Bel and asked him for a packet which she had given him for safe-keeping some little time before. He gave it to her, and she opened it. In it were letters and other documents, which, with a steely glance, she displayed to Monaldeschi. He was confused by the sight of them and by the incisive words in which Christina showed how he had both insulted her and had tried to shift the blame upon Sentanelli.
Monaldeschi broke down completely. He fell at the queen’s feet and wept piteously, begging for pardon, only to be met by the cold answer:
“You are my subject and a traitor to me. Marquis, you must prepare to die!”
Then she turned away and left the hall, in spite of the cries of Monaldeschi, to whom she merely added the advice that he should make his peace with God by confessing to Father Le Bel.
After she had gone the marquis fell into a torrent of self-exculpation and cried for mercy. The three armed men drew near and urged him to confess for the good of his soul. They seemed to have no malice against him, but to feel that they must obey the orders given them. At the frantic urging of the marquis their leader even went to the queen to ask whether she would relent; but he returned shaking his head, and said:
“Marquis, you must die.”
Father Le Bel undertook a like mission, but returned with the message that there was no hope. So the marquis made his confession in French and Latin, but even then he hoped; for he did not wait to receive absolution, but begged still further for delay or pardon.
Then the three armed men approached, having drawn their swords. The absolution was pronounced; and, following it, one of the guards slashed the marquis across the forehead. He stumbled and fell forward, making signs as if to ask that he might have his throat cut. But his throat was partly protected by a coat of mail, so that three or four strokes delivered there had slight effect. Finally, however, a long, narrow sword was thrust into his side, after which the marquis made no sound.