The Cardinal's Men!
Marie de Medici
Queen of France
She married Henry IV of France in October 1600 following the annulment of his marriage to Margaret of Valois. The wedding ceremony in Lyon, France was celebrated with 4,000 guests and lavish entertainments, including examples of the newly-invented musical genre of opera, Jacopo Peri’s Euridice. She brought as part of her dowry 600,000 crowns. Her eldest son, the future King Louis XIII, was born at Fontainebleau the following year.
The marriage was not a successful one. The queen feuded with Henry’s mistresses in language that shocked French courtiers. She quarrelled mostly with her husband’s leading mistress, Catherine Henriette de Balzac d’Entragues, whom he had promised he would marry following the death of his former “official mistress”, Gabrielle d’Estrées. When he failed to do so, and instead married Marie, the result was constant bickering and political intrigues behind the scenes. Although the king could have easily banished his mistress, supporting his queen, he never did so. She, in turn, showed great sympathy and support to her husband’s banished ex-wife Margaret of Valois, prompting Henry to allow her back into the realm.
Marie was crowned Queen of France on 13 May 1610, a day before her husband’s death. Hours after Henry’s assassination, she was confirmed as regent by the Parlement of Paris. She immediately banished his mistress Catherine Henriette de Balzac d’Entragues from the court.
Artistic patronage and the construction and furnishing of the Palais du Luxembourg, which she referred to as her “Palais Médicis”, formed her major artistic project during her regency. The site was purchased in 1612 and construction began in 1615, to designs of Salomon de Brosse. Her court painter was Peter Paul Rubens. Her physician in Italy was Elijah Montalto.
Politics: During her husband’s lifetime Marie showed little sign of political acumen, and her abilities scarcely improved after she assumed the regency. Extremely stubborn and of limited intelligence, she was soon entirely under the influence of her maid Leonora “Galigai” Dori. Dori conspired with her unscrupulous Italian husband, Concino Concini, who was created Marquis d’Ancre and a Marshal of France, even though he had never fought a battle.
The Concinis had Henry IV’s able minister, the Duke of Sully, dismissed, and Italian representatives of the Roman Catholic Church hoped to force the suppression of Protestantism in France by means of their influence. Half Habsburg herself, Marie abandoned the traditional anti-Habsburg French foreign policy. She lent support to Habsburg Spain by arranging the marriage of her daughter Elisabeth to the future Philip IV of Spain.
Under the regent’s lax and capricious rule, the princes of the blood and the great nobles of the kingdom revolted. The queen, too weak to assert her authority, consented to buy them off on 15 May 1614. The opposition to the regency was led by Henri de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien, who pressured Marie into convoking the Estates General in 1614 and 1615, the last time they would meet in France until the opening events of the French Revolution.
In 1616 Marie’s rule was strengthened by the addition to her councils of Armand Jean du Plessis (later Cardinal Richelieu), who had come to prominence at the meetings of the Estates General. However, her son Louis XIII, already several years into his legal majority, asserted his authority the next year. The king overturned the pro-Habsburg, pro-Spanish foreign policy pursued by his mother, ordered the assassination of Concini, exiled the queen to the Château de Blois and appointed Richelieu to his bishopric.
After two years of virtual imprisonment “in the wilderness”, as she put it, Marie escaped from Blois in the night of 21/22 February 1619 and became the figurehead of a new aristocratic revolt headed by Louis’s brother Gaston d’Orléans, which Louis’s forces easily dispersed. Through the mediation of Richelieu the king was reconciled with his mother, who was allowed to hold a small court at Angers. She resumed her place in the royal council in 1621.