S O complicated a story as that of the family of Charles can not be related, in all its parts, in the exact order of time; and having now shown under what circumstances the various members of the family made their escape from the dangers which threatened them in England, we return to follow the adventures of Prince Charles during his residence on the Continent, and, more particularly in this chapter, to describe his reception by the royal family of France. He was one of the first of the children that escaped, having arrived in France in 1646. His father was not beheaded until two years afterward.
In order that the reader may understand distinctly the situation in which Charles found himself on his arrival at Paris, we must first describe the condition of the royal family of France at this time. They resided sometimes at Fontainebleau, a splendid palace in the midst of a magnificent park about forty miles from the city. Henrietta, it will be recollected, was the sister of a king of France. This king was Louis XIII. He died, however, not far from the time of Queen Henrietta's arrival in the country, leaving his little son Louis, then five years old, heir to the crown. The little Louis of course became king immediately, in name, as Louis XIV., and in the later periods of his life he attained to so high a degree of prosperity and power, that he has been, ever since his day, considered one of the most renowned of all the French kings. He was, of course, Prince Charles's cousin. At the period of Prince Charles's arrival, however, he was a mere child, being then about eight years old. Of course, he was too young really to exercise any of the powers of the government. His mother, Anne of Austria, was made regent, and authorized to govern the country until the young king should arrive at a suitable age to exercise his hereditary powers in his own name. Anne of Austria had been always very kind to Henrietta, and had always rendered her assistance whenever she had been reduced to any special extremity of distress. It was she who had sent the supplies of money and clothing to Henrietta when she fled, sick and destitute, to Exeter, vainly hoping to find repose and the means of restoration there.
Besides King Louis XIII., who had died, Henrietta had another brother, whose name was Gaston, duke of Orleans. The Duke of Orleans had a daughter, who was styled the Duchess of Montpensier, deriving the title from her mother. She was, of course, also a cousin of Prince Charles. Her father, being brother of the late king, and uncle of the present one, was made lieutenant general of the kingdom, having thus the second place, that is, the place next to the queen, in the management of the affairs of the realm. Thus the little king commenced his reign by having in his court his mother as queen regent, his uncle lieutenant general, and his aunt, an exiled queen from a sister realm, his guest. He had also in his household his brother Philip, younger than himself, his cousin the young Duchess of Montpensier, and his cousin the Prince Charles. The family relationship of all these individuals will be made more clear by being presented in a tabular form, as follows:
Royal Family of France in the Time of Louis XIV.
In the above table, the first column contains the name of Henry IV., the second those of three of his children, with the persons whom they respectively married, and the third the four grandchildren, who, as cousins, now found themselves domesticated together in the royal palaces of France.
The young king was, as has already been said, about eight years old at the time of Prince Charles's arrival. The palace in which he resided when in the city was the Palace Royal, which was then, and has been ever since, one of the most celebrated buildings in the world. It was built at an enormous expense, during a previous reign, by a powerful minister of state, who was, in ecclesiastical rank, a cardinal, and his mansion was named, accordingly, the Palace Cardinal. It had, however, been recently taken as a royal residence, and its name changed to Palace Royal. Here the queen regent had her grand apartments of state, every thing being as rich as the most lavish expenditure could make it. She had one apartment, called an oratory, a sort of closet for prayer, which was lighted by a large window, the sash of which was made of silver. The interior of the room was ornamented with the most costly paintings and furniture, and was enriched with a profusion of silver and gold. The little king had his range of apartments too, with a whole household of officers and attendants as little as himself. These children were occupied continually with ceremonies, and pageants, and mock military parades, in which they figured in miniature arms and badges of authority, and with dresses made to imitate those of real monarchs and ministers of state. Every thing was regulated with the utmost regard to etiquette and punctilio, and without any limits or bounds to the expense. Thus, though the youthful officers of the little monarch's household exercised no real power, they displayed all the forms and appearances of royalty with more than usual pomp and splendor. It was a species of child's play, it is true, but it was probably the most grand and magnificent child's play that the world has ever witnessed. It was into this extraordinary scene that Prince Charles found himself ushered on his arrival in France.
At the time of the prince's arrival the court happened to be residing, not at Paris, but at Fontainebleau. Fontainebleau, as has already been stated, is about forty miles from Paris, to the southward. There is a very splendid palace and castle there, built originally in very ancient times. There is a town near, both the castle and the town being in the midst of a vast park and forest, one of the most extended and magnificent royal domains in Europe. This forest has been reserved as a hunting ground for the French kings from a very early age. It covers an area of forty thousand acres, being thus many miles in extent. The royal family were at this palace at the time of Prince Charles's arrival, celebrating the festivities of a marriage. The prince accordingly, as we shall presently see, went there to join them.
There were two persons who were anticipating the prince's arrival in France with special interest, his mother, and his young cousin, the Duchess of Montpensier. Her Christian name was Anne Marie Louisa. She was a gay, frivolous, and coquettish girl, of about nineteen, immensely rich, being the heiress of the vast estates of her mother, who was not living. Her father, though he was the lieutenant general of the realm, and the former king's brother, was not rich. His wife, when she died, had bequeathed all her vast estates to her daughter. Anne Maria was naturally haughty and vain, and, as her father was accustomed to come occasionally to her to get supplies of money, she was made vainer and more self-conceited still by his dependence upon her. Several matches had been proposed to her, and among them the Emperor of Germany had been named. He was a widower. His first wife, who had been Anne Maria's aunt, had just died. As the emperor was a potentate of great importance, the young belle thought she should prefer him to any of the others who had been proposed, and she made no secret of this her choice. It is true that he had made no proposal to her, but she presumed that he would do so after a suitable time had elapsed from the death of his first wife, and Anne Maria was contented to wait, considering the lofty elevation to which she would attain on becoming his bride.
But Queen Henrietta Maria had another plan. She was very desirous to obtain Anne Maria for the wife of her son Charles. There were many reasons for this. The young lady was a princess of the royal family of France; she possessed, too, an immense fortune, and was young and beautiful withal, though not quite so young as Charles himself. He was sixteen, and she was about nineteen. It is true that Charles was now, in some sense, a fugitive and an exile, destitute of property, and without a home. Still he was a prince. He was the heir apparent of the kingdoms of England and Scotland. He was young and accomplished. These high qualifications, somewhat exaggerated, perhaps, by maternal partiality, seemed quite sufficient to Henrietta to induce the proud duchess to become the prince's bride.
All this, it must be remembered, took place before the execution of King Charles the First, and when, of course, the fortunes of the family were not so desperate as they afterward became. Queen Henrietta had a great many conversations with Anne Maria before the prince arrived, in which she praised very highly his person and his accomplishments. She narrated to the duchess the various extraordinary adventures and the narrow escapes which the prince had met with in the course of his wanderings in England; she told her how dutiful and kind he had been to her as a son, and how efficient and courageous in his father's cause as a soldier. She described his appearance and his manners, and foretold how he would act, what tastes and preferences he would form, and how he would be regarded in the French court. The young duchess listened to all this with an appearance of indifference and unconcern, which was partly real and partly only assumed. She could not help feeling some curiosity to see her cousin, but her head was too full of the grander destination of being the wife of the emperor to think much of the pretensions of this wandering and homeless exile.
Prince Charles, on his arrival, went first to Paris, where he found his mother. There was an invitation for them here to proceed to Fontainebleau, where, as has already been stated, the young king and his court were now residing. They went there accordingly, and were received with every mark of attention and honor. The queen regent took the young king into the carriage of state, and rode some miles along the avenue, through the forest, to meet the prince and his mother when they were coming. They were attended with the usual cortège of carriages and horsemen, and they moved with all the etiquette and ceremony proper to be observed in the reception of royal visitors.
When the carriages met in the forest, they stopped, and the distinguished personages contained in them alighted. Queen Henrietta introduced her son to the queen regent and to Louis, the French king, and also to other personages of distinction who were in their train. Among them was Anne Maria. The queen regent took Henrietta and the prince into the carriage with her and the young king, and they proceeded thus together back to the palace. Prince Charles was somewhat embarrassed in making all these new acquaintances, in circumstances, too, of so much ceremony and parade, and the more so, as his knowledge of the French language was imperfect. He could understand it when spoken, but could not speak it well himself, and he appeared, accordingly, somewhat awkward and confused. He seemed particularly at a loss in his intercourse with Anne Maria. She was a little older than himself, and, being perfectly at home, both in the ceremonies of the occasion and in the language of the company, she felt entirely at her ease herself; and yet, from her natural temperament and character, she assumed such an air and bearing as would tend to prevent the prince from being so. In a word, it happened then as it has often happened since on similar occasions, that the beau was afraid of the belle.
The party returned to the palace. On alighting, the little king gave his hand to his aunt, the Queen of England, while Prince Charles gave his to the queen regent, and thus the two matrons were gallanted into the hall. The prince had a seat assigned him on the following day in the queen regent's drawing room, and was thus regularly instated as an inmate of the royal household. He remained here several days, and at length the whole party returned to Paris.
Anne Maria, in after years, wrote reminiscences of her early life, which were published after her death. In this journal she gives an account of her introduction to the young prince, and of her first acquaintance with him. It is expressed as follows:
"He was only sixteen or seventeen years of age, rather tall, with a fine head, black hair, a dark complexion, and a tolerably agreeable countenance. But he neither spoke nor understood French, which was very inconvenient. Nevertheless, every thing was done to amuse him, and, during the three days that he remained at Fontainebleau, there were hunts and every other sport which could be commanded in that season. He paid his respects to all the princesses, and I discovered immediately that the Queen of England wished to persuade me that he had fallen in love with me. She told me that he talked of me incessantly; that, were she not to prevent it, he would be in my apartment at all hours; that he found me quite to his taste, and that he was in despair on account of the death of the empress, for he was afraid that they would seek to marry me to the emperor. I listened to all she said as became me, but it did not have as much effect upon me as probably she wished."
After spending a few days at Fontainebleau, the whole party returned to Paris, and Queen Henrietta and the prince took up their abode again in the Palace Royal, or, as it is now more commonly called, the Palais Royal. Charles was much impressed with the pomp and splendor of the French court, so different from the rough mode of life to which he had been accustomed in his campaigns and wanderings in England. The etiquette and formality, however, were extreme, every thing, even the minutest motions, being regulated by nice rules, which made social intercourse and enjoyment one perpetual ceremony. But, notwithstanding all this pomp and splendor, and the multitude of officers and attendants who were constantly on service, there seems to have been, in the results obtained, a strange mixture of grand parade with discomfort and disorder. At one time at Fontainebleau, at a great entertainment, where all the princes and potentates that had been drawn there by the wedding were assembled, the cooks quarreled in the kitchen, and one of the courses of the supper failed entirely in consequence of their dissensions; and at another time, as a large party of visitors were passing out through a suite of rooms in great state, to descend a grand staircase, where some illustrious foreigners, who were present, were to take their leave, they found the apartments through which they were to pass all dark. The servants had neglected or forgotten to light them.
These and similar incidents show that there may be regal luxury and state without order or comfort, as there may be regal wealth and power without any substantial happiness. Notwithstanding this, however, Prince Charles soon became strongly interested in the modes of life to which he was introduced at Paris and at Fontainebleau. There were balls, parties, festivities, and excursions of pleasure without number, his interest in these all being heightened by the presence of Anne Maria, whom he soon began to regard with a strong degree of that peculiar kind of interest which princesses and heiresses inspire. In Anne Maria's memoirs of her early life, we have a vivid description of many of the scenes in which both she herself and Charles were such prominent actors. She wrote always with great freedom, and in a very graphic manner, so that the tale which she tells of this period of her life forms a very entertaining narrative.
Anne Maria gives a very minute account of what took place between herself and Charles on several occasions in the course of their acquaintance, and describes particularly various balls, and parties, and excursions of pleasure on which she was attended by the young prince. Her vanity was obviously gratified by the interest which Charles seemed to take in her, but she was probably incapable of any feelings of deep and disinterested love, and Charles made no impression upon her heart. She reserved herself for the emperor.
For example, they were all one night invited to a grand ball by the Duchess de Choisy. This lady lived in a magnificent mansion, called the Hotel de Choisy. Just before the time came for the party of visitors to go, the Queen of England came over with Charles to the apartments of Anne Maria. The queen came ostensibly to give the last touches to the adjustment of the young lady's dress, and to the arrangement of her hair, but really, without doubt, in pursuance of her policy of taking every occasion to bring the young people together.
"She came," says Anne Maria, in her narrative, "to dress me and arrange my hair herself. She came for this purpose to my apartments, and took the utmost pains to set me off to the best advantage, and the Prince of Wales held the flambeau near me to light my toilet the whole time. I wore black, white, and carnation; and my jewelry was fastened by ribbons of the same colors. I wore a plume of the same kind; all these had been selected and ordered by my aunt Henrietta. The queen regent, who knew that I was in my aunt Henrietta's hands, sent for me to come and see her when I was all ready, before going to the ball. I accordingly went, and this gave the prince an opportunity to go at once to the Hotel de Choisy, and be ready there to receive me when I should arrive. I found him there at the door, ready to hand me from my coach. I stopped in a chamber to readjust my hair, and the Prince of Wales again held a flambeau for me. This time, too, he brought his cousin, Prince Rupert, as an interpreter between us; for, believe it who will, though he could understand every word I said to him, he could not reply the least sentence to me in French. When the ball was finished and we retired, the prince followed me to the porter's lodge of my hotel, and lingered till I entered, and then went his way.
"There was another occasion on which his gallantry to me attracted a great deal of attention. It was at a great fête celebrated at the Palais Royal. There was a play acted, with scenery and music, and then a ball. It took three whole days to arrange my ornaments for this night. The Queen of England would dress me on this occasion, also, with her own hands. My robe was all figured with diamonds, with carnation trimmings. I wore the jewels of the crown of France, and, to add to them, the Queen of England lent me some fine ones of her own, which she had not then sold. The queen praised the fine turn of my shape, my air, the beauty of my complexion, and the brightness of my light hair. I had a conspicuous seat in the middle of the ballroom, with the young King of France and the Prince of Wales at my feet. I did not feel the least embarrassed, for, as I had an idea of marrying the emperor, I regarded the Prince of Wales only as an object of pity."
Things went on in this way for a time, until at last some political difficulties occurred at Paris which broke in upon the ordinary routine of the royal family, and drove them, for a time, out of the city. Before these troubles were over, Henrietta and her son were struck down, as by a blow, by the tidings, which came upon them like a thunderbolt, that their husband and father had been beheaded. This dreadful event put a stop for a time to every thing like festive pleasures. The queen left her children, her palace, and all the gay circle of her friends, and retired to a convent, to mourn, in solitude and undisturbed, her irreparable loss.