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PALAIS ROY AL.
AN HISTORICAL ROMANCE,
BY JOHN H. MANCUR,
TALES OF THE REVOLUTION," &c. &c.
Apprends à te connoitre, et descends en toi-mêmo.
WILLIAM H. COLYER, No. 5 HAGUE-STREET.
"Qu'il peigne de Paris les tristes embarras !"
ABOUT the middle of the seventeenth century, Paris was fast hastening to a crisis of social anarchy, through the obstinacy of the queen-regent in supporting a favourite minister against the united wish of the nation for his expulsion from office and banishment. Cardinal Mazarin had indeed the posthumous suffrage of the renowned Richelieu in his favour, who dying, recommended his pliant Italian secretary as a man able in affairs of state, and deserving the confidence of his sovereign. And with this passport to office, the cardinal became prime minister; served the unfortunate Louis XIII during the few remaining months of that monarch’s life---secretly espoused the cause of the queen, who was at variance with her royal consort intrigued so adroitly, as even to extort (his own agency unseen) the royal signature to a will declaring her majesty the future guardian of her infant son, and regent of the kingdom-and lastly, as the crowning of his hopes, found himself sole confidant of a widowed queen, mistress of a mighty kingdonn. For man who, ir. earlier life, had lived an adventurer at Rome--been cudgelled in the streets for cheating at play—and served the base offices of parasite and panderer to a Roman prelate,--this was exaltation loftier than his ambition could have dreamed of. Some men are tried in their ascent to power; the trial of others awaits their elevation ; and in the latter predicament was Mazarin.
His predecessor, Richelieu, he of the iron sceptre, who had subjected alike to his will, his master, the nation, and, in a measure, all Europe, had humbled not crushed the wild spirit and turbulence of the French nobility. They awaited with impatience the death of the king to share the rich spoils of the long-looked-for minority of the succeeding reign; and were chagrined and disgusted to find themselves thwarted by the crafty Italian, who, mean and avaricious by nature, failings the least likely to be forgiven by the French,
caused the stream of emolument and patronage to flow entirely into the royal exchequer, and thence find its exit only in supplying, and that sparingly, the cravings of his own creatures and partisans.
A powerful combination was formed to rid the country of the cardinal; its members composed of all the most influential of the noblesse, save a few attached to the royal household by office or personal friendship. The resources of this faction proved in the result mightier than foreseen by itself or its opponents ;—but to make the reader fully acquainted with the engine of destruction put in motion against the minister, it will be necessary to enter more into detail, before commencing the personal adventures which form the substance of our legend.
Ever since the royal policy had succeeded in inducing the nobility and titular clergy to make Paris a permanent residence-a policy which covered the heretofore waste fauxbourgs with magnificent hotels, and caused the narrow streets of the denser part of the capital to disappear before wide squares and public places--there had been attracted to Paris a larger population than its resources could fairly supply with the necessaries of life. And whenever a temporary interruption of the tranquillity of the kingdom induced a cessation of the daily luxuries of the richer classes, then was felt among the poor, deep distress and misery--even famine. The provisions destined for the supply of Paris were intercepted, either for the support of the royal armies, or carried off by insurgent forces,—and thus bread rose to a price quite beyond the means of the indigent of a city without the usual healthy resource of a large commerce, --a city where as we have just intimated, the poor depended on the luxurious droppings of the rich. And Paris was besides a city of refuge, a place where misery came to hide its sorrows, guilt to conceal its existence till crime was forgotten, and the discontented and broken-down of the provinces and other countries, to indulge at leisure in dreams of ambition and rapine. Much mischief and peril lay brooding amongst the almost unknown population, who were the tenants of the piles of floors, rising one above the other, in the lofty dismal dwellings which formed the narrow intricate passes of the oldest quarter of the city—that little island, the ancient Lutetia of the Romans--the whole of Paris in the days of Clovis, and from the centre of which arose the ancient towers of Nôtre Dame. There was much to fear in times of distress, and commotion from the hordes inhabiting this the most obscure and dangerous quarter of the city.
Another class of sufferers during an insurrectionary movement, were the rentiers, a very numerous body, chiefly of the bourgeois, who had sold their earnings or legacies to the royal exchequer for a life-annuity. These were paid at intervals at the Hôtel-de-Ville-of Paris, and the succession of payment was arranged according to the initial letter of the annuitant's name; so that throughout the year there was considerable stir and clamour, if not confusion, among the crowds of both sexes, who thronged this ancient edifice, waiting to receive their dues.
It is very obvious that when, from any cause, the king's exchequer was empty, there was nothing but promises to feed the poor annuitants; and as these had kindred, and creditors withal, spread in every direction, the mischief was universally ielt.
There were iu France two avenues of appeal open to the unfortu. nate; the one, to approach the royal footstool and sue for justice or relief; the other, to stir up the parliament to the aid of the oppressed. The parliament of Paris was not like the English parliament, a legislative body, but simply a corps of presidents and judg. es of the courts of law, in their ordinary sittings deciding law-suits, and on extraordinary occasions, associated with the advocates or councillors to register the king's edicts, so that they might more formally become the law of the land. To these extraordinary sittings, the chief noblesse, mitred clergy, and princes of the blood, had access; and there would, at long intervals, ensue something approaching the spirit of freedom and resistance to monarchical ty. ranny. It was the safety-valve to the absolutism of the most Christian King; and gave the Court warning when the despotic and financial screws pressed too tightly on the liberty and pockets of Jacques Bonhomme. There were besides certain solemn occasions, when his majesty holding what was called a bed of justice, presided in person ; parliament may have been so refractory as to require the royal presence to enforce the registry of an obnoxious edict, or Condé may have beaten the Spaniards at Rocroy, and it behoved king and parliament to assist together at mass; or his majesty and the magnates of the nation may have to return thanks for the royal recovery from a fit of the measles.
At the period at which our story opens, there was much need of some interference to heal the dissensions of the state, and above all to provide for the wants of a famishing people. The queen had perilled everything rather than dismiss her favourite minister; twice had she been forced to fly at night from Paris with her young