Gesprek met Bertrand Tavernier over La Princesse de Montpensier

Regisseur, scenarist en auteur Bertrand Tavernier – in Frankrijk een levende legende – maakte in de afgelopen 35 jaar meer dan twintig speelfilms. In 1974 won hij met zijn film L’Horloger de Saint-Paul een zilveren Bär op het Berlijnse filmfestival. Deze eerste erkenning zou in een lange carrière gevolgd worden door vele nominaties en vier keer een César, de hoogste onderscheiding van de Franse filmindustrie.

Met La princesse de Montpensier, een meticuleuze kostuumfilm die in grove lijnen gabaseerd is op de gelijknamige novelle van Madame de Lafayette uit 1662, haakt Tavernier (69) opnieuw aan bij de talrijke films uit zijn carriere waarin hij gloriëeerde met drama’s die speelden in een historische context. Zo zijn er in zijn palmarès al eerder pareltjes te vinden die zowel cinematografisch als geschiedkundig tot de top behoren van het genre. Coup de torchon (1980), La passion Béatrice (1987), La Vie et rien d’autre (1989) Capitaine Conan (1996) en La Guerre sans nom (1991) zijn daar de beste voorbeelden van.

Kern van La princesse de Montpensier, dat zich afspeelt tegen de achtergrond van de bloederige godsdiensttwisten in het Frankrijk van de tweede helft van de zestiende eeuw, is de opmerkelijke éducation sentimentale van de beeldschone Marie de Mézières, erfgename van een puissant rijke markies, die alle mannen in haar omgeving het hart op hol doet slaan. Marie wordt in toenemende mate verscheurd door aan de ene kant haar plicht om in te stemmen met het gearrangeerde huwelijk dat haar vader op het allerhoogste niveau wist te bekokstoven met de prins van Montpensier. En aan de andere kant haar hardnekkige liefde voor de Hertog van Guise, een robuuste adelborst met wie Marie al sinds haar dertiende op vertrouwelijke voet verkeert.
De prins van Montpensier, een vertrouweling van koning Charles IX die nog stroever overkomt dan Stalen Hein in zijn ijzeren korset, heeft meer oog voor het zadel van zijn paard dan voor de bevallige getaande oogopslag van zijn Marie. Een rol die fabuleus getypecast is door de frêle, roomblanke verschijning van Mélanie Thierry.

Bertrand Tavernier en Melanie Thierry op de set van La Princesse de Montpensier 

De rol van mosgroen prinsesje dat zich in alle onschuld tot de vlam van de natie weet te ontwikkelen, is Thierry op het lijf geschreven. De iele vlam van haar “esprit” wordt met hulp van haar mentor, de van de oorlog afgezwaaide humanist Chabannes ( sublieme rol van Lambert Wilson) die haar intelligentie tot volle wasdom weet te kweken met zijn private lessen in retorica, mathematica, wijsheid en wellevendheid, aangewakkerd tot een voor vrouwen in die tijd helaas nog ongehoord geachte proportie. Marie weet haar mannetje te staan, zelfs aan het Hof van Parijs. Vergeleken bij haar sprankelende persoonlijkheid, steekt die van haar stuurse man af als een holle boomstronk bij een volle linde. Tavernier portretteert de prinses uiteindelijk zelfs stiekem een beetje als een feministe avant la lettre. Zij het een feministe die voor de finale ontgrendeling van haar ketens, na een lang proces van weerstand en beteugeling, haar hoop gevestigd heeft op een man die – zo weet zij zeker – als enige is voorbestemd om op te treden als de sleutelbewaarder van haar ziel.

Net als in de novelle van Madame de Lafayette blijkt zij voor haar vrijgevochten geest een gruwelijke prijs te moeten betalen. Net wanneer zij zich eindelijk overgeeft aan haar verlangen, krijgt het noodlot zijn beloop. Terwijl een golf van terreur door Frankrijk trekt en er op commando van de koning een massaslachting plaatsvindt onder Hugenoten, offert haar beminde mentor Chabannes zich op in een laatste poging Marie voor de ondergang te behoeden. Chabannes moet zijn wanhoopsdaad met de dood bekopen, en wordt op straat door katholiek gespuis vermoord. In de rust die weerkeert na de gruwelen van wat later als de Bartholomaeusnacht bekend zou worden, begint de ellende voor Marie pas echt. Door haar echtgenoot wordt zij verstoten, door haar geliefde afgedankt, aan het hof valt zij in ongenade. Eenzaam, arm, verbitterd zoekt zij beschutting in een klooster. Waar zij na een kort maar hevig ziekbed, zoals Madame de Lafayette zo treffend schrijft in haar novelle, “nog altijd in de bloem van haar leven overlijdt. Ze was een van de adorabelste vrouwen van het land, en had een van de gelukkigste kunnen worden…”

Slotregels van het originele manuscript uit 1662 dat wordt toegeschreven aan Madame de Lafayette. Source : Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Réserve des livres rares, RES-P-Y2-2203 -Relation : http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb30713637h . Provenance : bnf.fr 

 

Op het laatste filmfestival van Cannes, waar La princesse de Montpensier meedraaide in de hoofdcompetitie, kreeg Cobra de gelegenheid om Bertrand Tavernier te spreken op het terrace des palmes – helemaal op het dak van het Palais des Festivals. Serge van Duijnhoven, van huis uit historicus, vroeg aan de regisseur wat hem ertoe gebracht had de inmiddels bijna vergeten novelle van de mysterieuze Madame de Lafayette om te zetten in een van de grootste kostuumfilms uit de Franse filmgeschiedenis.

Bertrand Tavernier aan het werk op de set 

Bertrand Tavernier: Ik zag in die prachtige kleine novelle van Lafayette de mogelijkheid om een magnifieke liefdesgeschiedenis te verbeelden in een historische context die ik nog niet eerder had geëxploreerd. Weet u, voor mij moet iedere film – wil ik er het enthousiasme voor op kunnen brengen dat ik aan het onderwerp verplicht ben – ook iets hebben van een ontdekkingstocht. Ik wil me helemaal in het onderwerp onder kunnen dompelen, onderzoek verrichten, en een poging wagen de historischecontext ook op psychologisch niveau gestalte te geven.”


De film is een historisch kostuumdrama en heeft tegelijkertijd veel weg van een thriller of een film noir. Hoe heeft u deze combinatie tot stand weten te brengen? Heeft u veel compromissen moeten sluiten wat betreft de historiciteit van de scènes?

Tavernier: “Integendeel. Ik ben heel erg streng omgesprongen met de details in deze film. De setting moest historisch correct en geloofwaardig zijn maar zeker niet te somptueus en in het oog springend. Dat zou de aandacht van het publiek enkel maar af kunnen leiden van waar het me echt om te doen is: het gevoelsleven, de belevingswereld van Marie de Montpensier en de overige protagonisten. Ik heb getracht – door terug te keren naar deze periode in de geschiedenis – , de wortels van onze moderne emoties bloot te leggen. Zaken als liefde, vrijheid, tolerantie, zelfverwezenlijking, jalouzie, opofferingsgezindheid, geloof, wanhoop… Ze komen allemaal aan bod in de film.”

Heeft u aan Marie de Montpensier gedacht in termen van het feminisme zoals we dat in later tijden hebben leren kennen?

“Zeer zeker. Marie de Montpensier is in beginsel naief maar ze is ook schrander en vooral tomeloos leergierig. Ze wil koste wat het kost leren lezen en schrijven, en droomt er vurig van haar lot in eigen hand te kunnen nemen. In beide amibties slaagt ze met glans. En dat in een tijd dat mannen van adel enkel geacht werden te vechten en jagen, en vrouwen hooguit het spinnenwiel mochten bedienen! Ik voel een diepe sympathie voor haar. Ik wilde haar perse begrijpen. Laten zien hoe wreed en kil de meeste mannen in die tijd met hun vrouwen omsprongen. Marie wordt gedreven door een natuurlijke vrijheidsdrang, die in haar geval tegelijkertijd ook een emancipatorische geldingsdrang is. Ze wil zich ontwikkelen, ze wil losbreken van de conventies die haar geketend houden in haar rol als ondergeschikte die op het huishouden mag passen en moet zorgen voor nageslacht. Ze wil liefde ervaren en liefde geven. Tegelijkertijd wordt ze door allerlei ambivalente gevoelens in haar vrijpostigheid geremd. Moet ze loyaal blijven aan haar man Philippe of alles wat ze is en bezit op het spel zetten door in te gaan op de avances van de eveneens in vuur en vlam staande charmeur Henri de Guise? Voor mij vormde dit dilemma de dramatische kern van de film. De uitkomst van het hoge spel dat Marie speelt, pakt voor haar faliekant verkeerd uit. Het einde is zo bitter en tragisch omdat wat Marie overkomt zo hartverscheurend onterecht is. Het is in deze film wat dat betreft precies zoals in het echte leven: Onze wil komt zelden overeen met onze bestemming.”

In de zalen vanaf 3 november in Frankrijk en 10 november in Belgie

La Princesse de Montpensier

Engelse titel : The Princess of Montpensier
Regie: Bernard Tavernier
Première: 03 November 2010
Duur: 139 minuten
Land: Frankrijk, Duitsland (2010)
Originele taal : Frans |
Genre : Historisch, oorlogsfilm
Met Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet, Mélanie Thierry, Gaspard Ulliel
Release : 10/11/2010
Duur : 2u15
release date: FR 11/03/2010, BE 10/11/2010
screenplay: Bertrand Tavernier, Jean Cosmos, François-Olivier Rousseau
cast: Mélanie Thierry, Lambert Wilson, Gaspard Ulliel, Louis Garrel, Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet
cinematography by: Bruno de Keyzer
film editing: Sophie Brunet
art director: Guy-Claude Francois
music: Philippe Sarde
producer: Marc Silam, Eric Heuman
production: Paradis Films, StudioCanal, France 2 Cinéma, France 3 Cinéma, Pandora Filmproduktion
backing: Centre National du Cinéma et de l’image animée (CNC), MEDIA Programme
distributor: StudioCanal, United International Pictures Belgium
sales agent: StudioCanal


 

Trailer:

http://cineuropa.org/trailer.aspx?lang=en&documentID=145417

Website van de film:

http://www.studiocanal.com/tous-nos-films/films-historique/cid13014/la-princesse-de-montpensier.html

Titelpagina originele manuscript van Mme de Lafayette publ. 1662 

Marie Madeleine Pioche de la Vergne, Comtesse de La Fayette /LaFayette /Lafayette (1634-1693)
=====================================================
=====================================================

Marie Madeleine Pioche de la Vergne was born and raised in Paris, to members of the minor nobility. Her father died when Marie was 15, and in the following year her mother married a member of the Sevigne family, which brought Marie a connection to Madame de Sevigne, who would become her closest friend. Marie Madeleine became an attendant to the queen, Anne of Austria, and began the study of classical literature and modern languages under the scholar-satirist Gilles Menage, who would remain her mentor for years. It was Menage who introduced her to the salons of Madame de Rambouillet and Madeleine de Scudery.
At 20, Marie Madeleine was married to Francois, Comte de La Fayette, of Auvergne, a widower 18 years older than she; the couple had two sons. For about five years, Madame de la Fayette lived part of the time in Auvergne and part in Paris. In Auvergne, she helped her husband deal with his family’s debts. In Paris she continued to be part of salon life — at Scudery’s, at Madame de Sable’s at Port-Royal, and at the Duchesse de Montpensier’s.
It was as part of Montpensier’s salon that La Fayette produced her first published writing, a pen-portrait of Sevigne. It was printed in the 1659 Divers portraits, a collection arranged by Jean Segrais, an established writer and Montpensier’s secretary. A longer work, La Princesse de Montpensier, would be published anonymously in 1662; it was known in salon and court circles to have been written by La Fayette, perhaps under the guidance of Menage. It contained “imaginary adventures,” but was loosely based on the life of one of Montpensier’s ancestors.
By the end of 1660, La Fayette was living permanently in Paris, while her husband remained in Auvergne. There was no formal separation; her husband visited occasionally and signed papers allowing her to control her own finances. She also began the friendship with the Duc de la Rochefoucauld, which would last until his death. All was done so discreetly that there was no gossip, even in a small society that relished gossip.
In 1661 the 17-year-old Princess Henrietta of England married Louis XIV’s brother, Philippe, and the 27-year-old La Fayette soon became part of her inner circle. In 1664, at Henrietta’s request, La Fayette began to write Histoire de Madame Henriette d’Angleterre; she would end it with Henrietta’s death in 1670.
In the mid-1660s Jean Segrais left Montpensier’s service and became part of a salon that La Fayette had established at her home in Paris. In 1669 the first part of Zayde, histoire espagnole, was published under Segrais’ name (the second would follow in 1671). In his memoirs, Segrais identified La Fayette as the work’s “principal author,” but it is difficult to know just what this means. Contemporary correspondence and memoirs suggest that collaborative “salon writing” took different forms. Sometimes an author would bring a piece to the group for comments and suggestions; in other cases, several individuals would write a section to be inserted into the work. Zayde, (or Zaide, in modern French versions) with its several interpolated tales, seems to be the one work attributed to La Fayette that would fit the latter method.
During the 1670′s La Fayette and La Rouchefoucauld, both in failing health, appear to have worked together on La Princesse de Cleves. Segrais may have helped in the early stages, but he left Paris permanently in 1676. The novel was published anonymously in 1678, and although La Fayette denied authorship for both herself and La Rouchefoucauld, their closest friends believed it to have been their collaborative effort.
In 1680 La Rouchefoucauld died, followed by La Fayette’s husband three years later. Her sons were established, her health continued to fail; but La Fayette still went to court and sent reports to Sevigne when her friend was out of town. She also began to write a historical account of this period, but all of it has been lost except for one part that covers less than two years, published after her death as Memoires de la cour de France pour les annees 1688 et 1689.
Another short work, La Comtesse de Tende, was also published posthumously, and attributed to La Fayette six years after its first anonymous printing. Some critics suggest that La Fayette wrote it during the 1650s; others believe that (if the work is indeed hers) it was a later work.
The portrait of Sevigne, the memoir of Henrietta of England, the account of 1688-89, are written solely by La Fayette; in La Princesse de Montpensier, Zayde, and La Princesse de Cleves, we hear her voice (if not alone); we don’t know about La Comtesse de Tende. Reading them all will let you hear that voice.

Excerpts from translations in print:
Portrait of Mme. Sevigne
Histoire de Madame Henriette d’Angleterre
Memoires de la cour de France pour les annees 1688 et 1689
La princesse de Cleves
La princesse de Montpensier
La comtesse de Tende
Zayde, histoire espagnole

 

Complete text of the novella in a recent English translation by Oliver C. Colt:

 

The Princess de Montpensier

by Mme. de Lafayette

Introduction and translation
by Oliver C. Colt

This story was written by Madame de Lafayette and published
anonymously in 1662. It is set in a period almost 100 years
previously during the sanguinary wars of the counter-reformation,
when the Catholic rulers of Europe, with the encouragement of the
Papacy, were bent on extirpating the followers of the creeds of
Luther and Calvin. I am not qualified to embark on a historical
analysis, and shall do no more than say that many of the persons who
are involved in the tale actually existed, and the events referred to
actually took place. The weak and vicious King and his malign and
unscrupulous mother are real enough, as is a Duc de Montpensier, a
Prince of the Blood, who achieved some notoriety for the cruelty with
which he treated any Huguenots who fell into his hands, and for the
leadership he gave to the assassins during the atrocious massacre of
St. Bartholomew’s day.

He was married and had progeny, but the woman to whom he was married
was not the heroine of this romance, who is a fictional character, as
is the Comte de Chabannes.

The Duc de Guise of the period whose father had been killed
fighting against the Protestants, did marry the Princess de Portein,
but this was for political reasons and not to satisfy the wishes of a
Princess de Montpensier.

It will be noticed, I think, that women were traded in marriage
with little or no regard to their personal emotions, and no doubt, as
has been remarked by others, marriages without love encouraged love
outside marriage. Whatever the reality, the literary conventions of
the time seem to have dictated that we should be treated only to
ardent glances, fervent declarations, swoonings and courtly gestures;
we are not led even to the bedroom door, let alone the amorous couch.
I wonder, however, if the reader might not think that this little
tale written more than three hundred years ago contains the elements
of many of the romantic novels and soap operas which have followed
it.

At one level it is a cautionary tale about the consequences of
marital infidelity; at another it is a story of a woman betrayed,
treated as a pretty bauble for the gratification of men, and cast
aside when she has served her purpose, or a butterfly trapped in a
net woven by uncaring fate. Her end is rather too contrived for
modern taste, but, even today, characters who are about to be written
out of the plot in soap operas are sometimes smitten by mysterious
and fatal disorders of the brain.

The unfortunate Comte de Chabannes is the archetypical “decent
chap,” the faithful but rejected swain who sacrifices himself for the
welfare of his beloved without expectation of reward. In the hands of
another writer, with some modification, he could have provided a
happy ending in the “Mills and Boon” tradition.

This translation is not a schoolroom exercise, for although I have
not altered the story, I have altered the exact way in which it is
told in the original, with the aim of making it more acceptable to
the modern reader. All translation must involve paraphrase, for what
sounds well in one language may sound ridiculous if translated
literally into another, and it is for the translator to decide how
far this process may be carried. Whether I have succeeded in my task,
only the reader can say.

The Princess de Montpensier

By Madame de Lafayette

Translated by Oliver C. Colt

It was while the civil war of religion was tearing France apart
that the only daughter of the Marquis of MÇziäres, a very
considerable heiress, both because of her wealth and the illustrious
house of Anjou from which she was descended, was promised in marriage
to the Duc de Maine, the younger brother of the Duc de Guise.

The marriage was delayed because of the youth of this heiress, but
the elder of the brothers, the Duc de Guise, who saw much of her, and
who saw also the burgeoning of what was to become a great beauty,
fell in love with her and was loved in return. They concealed their
feelings with great care; the Duc de Guise, who had not yet become as
ambitious as he was to become later, wanted desperately to marry her,
but fear of angering his uncle, the Cardinal de Lorraine, who had
taken the place of his dead father, prevented him from making any
declaration.

This was how the matter stood when the ruling house of Bourbon,
who could not bear to see any benefit accruing to that of de Guise,
decided to step in and reap the profit themselves by marrying this
heiress to the Prince de Montpensier.

This project was pursued with such vigour that the parents of
Mlle. de MÇziäres, despite the promises given to the Cardinal de
Lorraine, resolved to give her in marriage to the young Prince. The
house of de Guise was much displeased at this, but the Duc himself
was overcome by grief, and regarded this as an insupportable affront.
In spite of warnings from his uncles, the Cardinal and the Duc de
Aumale – who did not wish to stand in the way of something which
they could not prevent – he expressed himself with so much violence,
even in the presence of the Prince de Montpensier, that a mutual
enmity arose between them which lasted all their lives.

Mlle. de MÇziäres, urged by her parents to marry the Prince,
realised that it was impossible for her to marry the Duc de Guise,
and that if she married his brother, the Duc de Maine, she would be
in the dangerous position of having as a brother-in-law a man whom
she wished was her husband; so she agreed finally to marry the Prince
and begged the Duc de Guise not to continue to place any obstacle in
the way.

The marriage having taken place, the Prince de Montpensier took
her off to his estate of Champigny, which was where Princes of his
family usually lived, in order to remove her from Paris, where it
seemed that an outbreak of fighting was imminent: this great city
being under threat of siege by a Huguenot army led by the Prince de
CondÇ, who had once more declared war on the King.

The Prince de Montpensier had, when a very young man, formed a
close friendship with the Comte de Chabannes, a man considerably
older than himself and of exemplary character. The Comte in turn had
been so much influenced by the esteem and friendship of the Prince
that he had broken off influential connections which he had with the
Prince de CondÇ, and had declared for the Catholics; a change of
sides which, having no other foundation, was regarded with suspicion:
so much so that the Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici, on the
declaration of war by the Huguenots, proposed to have him imprisoned.
The Prince de Montpensier prevented this and carried him away to
Champigny when he went there with his wife. The Comte being a very
pleasant, amiable man soon gained the approbation of the Princess and
before long she regarded him with as much friendship and confidence
as did her husband. Chabannes, for his part, observed with
admiration the beauty, sense and modesty of the young Princess, and
used what influence he had to instill in her thoughts and behaviour
suited to her elevated position; so that under his guidance she
became one of the most accomplished women of her time.

The Prince having gone back to the Court, where he was needed
owing to the continuation of the war, the Comte lived alone with the
Princess and continued to treat her with the respect due to her rank
and position. The Princess took him so far into her confidence as to
tell him of the feelings she had once had for the Duc de Guise, but
she intimated that there remained only enough of this emotion to
prevent her heart from straying elsewhere and that this remnant,
together with her wifely virtue made it impossible for her to
respond, except with a rebuff, to any possible suitor.

The Comte who recognised her sincerity and who saw in her a
character wholly opposed to flirtation and gallantry, did not doubt
the truth of her words; but nevertheless he was unable to resist all
the charms which he saw daily so close to him. He fell deeply in
love with the Princess, in spite of the shame he felt at allowing
himself to be overcome by this illicit passion. However although not
master of his heart, he was master of his actions; the change in his
emotions did not show at all in his behaviour, and no none suspected
him. He took, for a whole year, scrupulous care to hide his feelings
from the Princess and believed that he would always be able to do so.

Love, however, had the same effect on him as it does on everyone, he
longed to speak of it, and after all the struggles which are usually
made on such occasions, he dared to tell her of his devotion. He had
been prepared to weather the storm of reproach which this might
arouse, but he was greeted with a calm and a coolness which was a
thousand times worse than the outburst which he had expected. She
did not take the trouble to be angry. She pointed out in a few words
the difference in their rank and ages, she reminded him of what she
had previously said about her attitude to suitors and above all to the
duty he owed to the confidence and friendship of the Prince her
husband. The Comte was overwhelmed by shame and distress. She tried
to console him by assuring him that she would forget entirely what he
had just said to her and would always look on him as her best friend;
assurances which were small consolation to the Comte as one might
imagine. He felt the disdain which was implicit in all that the
Princess had said, and seeing her the next day with her customary
untroubled looks redoubled his misery.

The Princess continued to show him the same goodwill as before and

even discussed her former attachment to the Duc de Guise, saying that
she was pleased that his increasing fame showed that he was worthy of
the affection she had once had for him. These demonstrations of
confidence, which were once so dear to the Comte, he now found
insupportable, but he did not dare say as much to the Princess,
though he did sometimes remind her of what he had so rashly confessed
to her.

After an absence of two years, peace having been declared, the
Prince de Montpensier returned to his wife, his renown enhanced by
his behaviour at the siege of Paris and the battle of St. Denis. He
was surprised to find the beauty of the Princess blooming in such
perfection, and being of a naturally jealous disposition he was a
little put out of humour by the realisation that this beauty would be
evident to others beside himself. He was delighted to see once more
the Comte, for whom his affection was in no way diminished. He asked
him for confidential details about his wife’s character and
temperament, for she was almost a stranger to him because of the
little time during which they had lived together. The Comte, with the
utmost sincerity, as if he himself were not enamoured, told the
Prince everything he knew about the Princess which would encourage
her husband’s love of her, and he also suggested to Madame de
Montpensier all the measures she might take to win the heart and
respect of her spouse. The Comte’s devotion led him to think of
nothing but what would increase the happiness and wellbeing of the
Princess and to forget without difficulty the interest which
lovers usually have in stirring up trouble between the objects of
their affection and their marital partners.

The peace was only shortlived. War soon broke out again by reason
of a plot by the King to arrest the Prince de CondÇ and Admiral
Chatillon at Noyers. As a result of the military preparations the
Prince de Montpensier was forced to leave his wife and report for
duty. Chabannes, who had been restored to the Queen’s favour, went
with him. It was not without much sorrow that he left the Princess,
while she, for her part, was distressed to think of the perils to
which the war might expose her husband.

The leaders of the Huguenots retired to La Rochelle. They held

Poitou and Saintongne; the war flared up again and the King assembled
all his troops. His brother, the Duc d’Anjou, who later became Henri
III, distinguished himself by his deeds in various actions, amongst
others the battle of Jarnac, in which the Prince de CondÇ was killed.
It was during this fighting that the Duc de Guise began to play a
more important part and to display some of the great qualities which
had been expected of him. The Prince de Montpensier, who hated him,
not only as a personal enemy but as an enemy of his family, the
Bourbons, took no pleasure in his successes nor in the friendliness
shown toward him by the Duc d’Anjou.

After the two armies had tired themselves out in a series of minor
actions, by common consent they were stood down for a time. The Duc
d’Anjou stayed at Loches to restore to order all the places which had
been attacked. The Duc de Guise stayed with him and the Prince de
Montpensier, accompanied by the Comte de Chabannes, went back to
Champigny, which was not far away.

The Duc d’Anjou frequently went to inspect places where
fortifications were being constructed. One day when he was returning
to Loches by a route which his staff did not know well, the Duc de
Guise, who claimed to know the way, went to the head of the party to
act as guide, but after a time he became lost and arrived at the bank
of a small river which he did not recognise. The Duc d’Anjou had a
few words to say to him for leading them astray, but while they were
held up there they saw a little boat floating on the river, in which
– the river not being very wide – they could see the figures of three
or four women, one of whom, very pretty and sumptuously dressed, was
watching with interest the activities of two men who were fishing
nearby.

This spectacle created something of a sensation amongst the
Princes and their suite. It seemed to them like an episode from a
romance. Some declared that it was fate that had led the Duc de Guise
to bring them there to see this lovely lady, and that they should now
pay court to her. The Duc d’Anjou maintained that it was he who
should be her suitor.

To push the matter a bit further, they made one of the horsemen go
into the river as far as he could and shout to the lady that it was
the Duc d’Anjou who wished to cross to the other bank and who begged
the lady to take him in her boat. The lady, who was of course the
Princess de Montpensier, hearing that it was the Duc d’Anjou, and
having no doubt when she saw the size of his suite that it was indeed
him, took her boat over to the bank where he was. His fine figure
made him easily distinguishable from the others; she, however,
distinguished even more easily the figure of the Duc de Guise. This
sight disturbed her and caused her to blush a little which made her
seem to the Princes to have an almost supernatural beauty.

The Duc de Guise recognised her immediately in spite of the
changes which had taken place in her appearance in the three years
since he had last seen her. He told the Duc d’Anjou who she was and
the Duc was at first embarrassed at the liberty he had taken, but
then, struck by the Princess’s beauty, he decided to venture a little
further, and after a thousand excuses and a thousand compliments he
invented a serious matter which required his presence on the opposite
bank, and accepted the offer which she made of a passage in her boat.
He got in, accompanied only by the Duc de Guise, giving orders to his
suite to cross the river elsewhere and to join him at Champigny,
which Madame de Montpensier told him was not more than two leagues
from there.

As soon as they were in the boat the Duc d’Anjou asked to what
they owed this so pleasant encounter. Madame de Montpensier replied
that having left Champigny with the Prince her husband with the
intention of following the hunt, she had become tired and having
reached the river bank she had gone out in the boat to watch the
landing of a salmon which had been caught in a net. The Duc de Guise
did not take part in this conversation, but he was conscious of the
re-awakening of all the emotions which the Princess had once aroused
in him, and thought to himself that he would have difficulty in
escaping from this meeting without falling once more under her spell.

They arrived shortly at the bank where they found the Princess’s
horses and her attendants who had been waiting for her. The two
noblemen helped her onto her horse where she sat with the greatest
elegance. During their journey back to Champigny they talked
agreeably about a number of subjects and her companions were no less
charmed by her conversation than they had been by her beauty. They
offered her a number of compliments to which she replied with
becoming modesty, but a little more coolly to those from M. de Guise,
for she wished to maintain a distance which would prevent him from
founding any expectations on the feelings she had once had towards
him.

When they arrived at the outer courtyard of Champigny they
encountered the Prince de Montpensier, who had just returned from the
hunt. He was greatly astonished to see two men in the company of his
wife, and he was even more astonished when, on coming closer, he saw
that these were the Duc d’Anjou and the Duc de Guise. The hatred
which he bore for the latter, combined with his naturally jealous
disposition made him find the sight of these two Princes with his
wife, without knowing how they came to be there or why they had come
to his house, so disagreeable that he was unable to conceal his
annoyance. He, however, adroitly put this down to a fear that he
could not receive so mighty a Prince as the King’s brother in a style
befitting his rank. The Comte de Chabannes was even more upset at
seeing the Duc de Guise and Madame de Montpensier together than
was her husband, it seemed to him a most evil chance which had
brought the two of them together again, an augury which foretold
disturbing sequels to follow this new beginning.

In the evening Madame de Montpensier acted as hostess with the
same grace with which she did everything. In fact she pleased her
guests a little too much. The Duc d’Anjou who was very handsome and
very much a ladies man, could not see a prize so much worth winning
without wishing ardently to make it his own. He had a touch of the
same sickness as the Duc de Guise, and continuing to invent important
reasons, he stayed for two days at Champigny, without being obliged
to do so by anything but the charms of Madame de Montpensier, for her
husband did not make any noticeable effort to detain him. The Duc de
Guise did not leave without making it clear to Madame de Momtpensier
that he felt towards her as he had done in the past. As nobody knew
of this former relationship he said to her several times, in front of
everybody, that his affections were in no way changed. A remark which
only she understood.

Both he and the Duc d’Anjou left Champigny with regret. For a
long time they went along in silence; but at last it occurred to the
Duc d’Anjou that the reflections which occupied his thoughts might be
echoed in the mind of the Duc de Guise, and he asked him brusquely if
he was thinking about the beauties of Madame de Montpensier. This
blunt question combined with what he had already observed of the
Prince’s behaviour made the Duc realise that he had a rival from whom
it was essential that his own love for the Princess should be
concealed. In order to allay all suspicion he answered with a laugh
that the Prince himself had seemed so preoccupied with the thoughts
which he was accused of having that he had deemed it inadvisable to
interrupt him; the beauty of Madame de Montpensier was, he said,
nothing new to him, he had been used to discounting its effect since
the days when she was destined to be his sister-in-law, but he saw
that not everyone was so little dazzled. The Duc d’Anjou admitted
that he had never seen anyone to compare with this young Princess and
that he was well aware that the vision might be dangerous if he was
exposed to it too often. He tried to get the Duc de Guise to confess
that he felt the same, but the Duc would admit to nothing.

On their return to Loches they often recalled with pleasure the
events which had led to their meeting with the Princess de
Montpensier, a subject which did not give rise to the same pleasure
at Champigny. The Prince de Montpensier was dissatisfied with all
that had happened without being able to say precisely why. He found
fault with his wife for being in the boat. He considered that she
had welcomed the Princes too readily; and what displeased him most
was that he had noticed the attention paid to her by the Duc de
Guise. This had provoked in him a furious bout of jealousy in which
he recalled the anger displayed by the Duc at the prospect of his
marriage, which caused him to suspect that even at that time the Duc
was in love with his wife. The Comte de Chabannes as usual made
every effort to act as peacemaker, hoping in this way to show the
Princess that his devotion to her was sincere and disinterested. He
could not resist asking her what effect the sight of the Duc de Guise
had produced. She replied that she had been somewhat upset and
embarrassed at the memory of the feelings she had once displayed to
him; she found him more handsome than he had been then and it had
seemed to her that he wished to persuade her that he still loved her,
but she assured the Comte that nothing would shake her determination
not to become involved in any intrigue. The Comte was happy to hear
of this resolve, but he was far from being sure about the Duc de
Guise. He earnestly warned the Princess of the danger of a return to
the previous situation should she have any change of heart, though
when he spoke of his devotion she adopted her invariable attitude of
looking on him as her closest friend but in no way a possible suitor.

The armies were once more called up; all the Princes returned to
their posts and the Prince de Montpensier decided that his wife
should come with him to Paris so as to be further from the area where
it was expected that fighting would take place. The Huguenots
besieged Poitiers. The Duc de Guise went there to organise the
defence and, while there, enhanced his reputation by his conduct.
The Duc d’Anjou suffered from some illness, and left the army either
on account of the severity of this or because he wanted to return to
the comfort and security of Paris, where the presence of the Princess
de Montpensier was not the least of the attractions. The command of
the army was taken over by the Prince de Montpensier, and shortly
after this, a peace having been arranged, the Court assembled in
Paris. Here the beauty of the Princess eclipsed that of all her
rivals. She charmed everyone by her looks and personality. The Duc
d’Anjou did not abandon the sentiments she had inspired in him at
Champigny, he took great care to make her aware of this by all sorts
of delicate considerations, being careful at the same time not to
make his attentions too obvious for fear of arousing the jealousy of
her husband. The Duc de Guise was now fervently in love with her, but
wishing, for a variety of reasons, to keep this secret, he resolved
to tell her so privately and avoid any preliminaries which, as
always, would give rise to talk and exposure. One day when he was in
the Queen’s apartments where there were very few people, the Queen
having left to discuss affairs of state with Cardinal de Lorraine,
the Princess de Montpensier arrived. He decided to take this
opportunity to speak to her, and going up to her he said, “Although
it may surprise and displease you, I want you to know that I have
always felt for you that emotion which you once knew so well, and
that its power has been so greatly increased by seeing you again that
neither your disapproval, the hatred of your husband, nor the rivalry
of the first Prince in the kingdom can in the least diminish it. It
would perhaps have been more tactful to have let you become aware of
this by my behaviour rather than by my words, but my behaviour would
have been evident to others as well as to yourself and I wanted you
alone to know of my love for you.”

The Princess was so surprised and thrown into confusion by this
speech that she could not think of an answer, then, just when she had
collected her wits and begun to reply, the Prince de Montpensier
entered the room. The Princess’s face displayed her agitation, and
her embarrassment was compounded by the sight of her husband, to such
an extent that he was left in no doubt about what the Duc de Guise
had been saying to her. Fortunately at that moment the Queen
re-entered the room and the Duc de Guise moved away to avoid the
jealous Prince.

That evening the Princess found her husband in the worst temper
imaginable. He berated her with the utmost violence and forbade her
ever to speak to the Duc de Guise again. She retired to her room
very sad and much preoccupied with the events of the day. She saw
the Duc the next day amid the company around the Queen, but he did
not come near her and left soon after she did, indicating that he had
no interest in remaining if she was not there. Not a day passed
without her receiving a thousand covert marks of the Duc’s passion
though he did not attempt to speak to her unless he was sure that
they could be seen by nobody.

Convinced of the Duc’s sincerity, the Princess, in spite of the
resolution she had made at Champigny, began to feel in the depths of
her heart something of what she had felt in the past.

The Duc d’Anjou for his part, omitted nothing which could
demonstrate his devotion in all the places where he could meet her.
In the Queen his mother’s apartments he followed her about
continually, completely ignoring his sister who was very fond of him.
It was at around this time that it became evident that this sister,
who later became the Queen of Navarre, had a liking for the Duc de
Guise, and another thing that became evident was a cooling of the
friendship between that Duc and the Duc d’Anjou. The rumour linking
the name of the Royal Princess with that of the Duc de Guise
disturbed The Princess de Montpensier to a degree which surprised
her, and made her realise that she was more interested in the Duc
than she had supposed.

Now it so happened that her father-in-law, M. de Montpensier,
married a sister of the Duc de Guise, and the princess was bound to
meet the Duc frequently in the various places where the marriage
celebrations required their presence. She was greatly offended that
a man who was widely believed to be in love with “Madame”, the King’s
sister, should dare to make advances to her; she was not only
offended but distressed at having deceived herself.

One day, when they met at his sister’s house, being a little
separated from he rest, the Duc was tempted to speak to her, but she
interrupted him sharply saying angrily “I do not understand how, on
the basis of a weakness which one had at the age of thirteen, you
have the audacity to make amorous proposals to a person like me,
particularly when, in the view of the whole Court, you are interested
in someone else.” The Duc who was intelligent as well as being much
in love, understood the emotion which underlay the Princess’s words.
He answered her most respectfully, “I confess, Madame, that it was
wrong of me not to reject the possible honour of becoming the King’s
brother-in-law, rather than allow you to suspect for a moment that I
could desire any heart but yours; but if you will be patient enough
to hear me I am sure I can fully justify my behaviour.” The Princess
made no reply, but she did not go away and the Duc, seeing that she
was prepared to listen to him, told her that although he had made no
effort to attract the attention of Madame, she had nevertheless
honoured him with her interest: as he was not enamoured of her he had
responded very coolly to this honour until she gave him to believe
that she might marry him. The realisation of the grandeur to which
such a marriage would raise him had obliged him to take a little more
trouble. This situation had aroused the suspicions of the King and
the Duc d’Anjou, but the opposition of neither of them would have any
effect on his course of action, however, if this displeased her he
would abandon all such notions and never think of them again.

This sacrifice which the Duc was prepared to make caused the
Princess to forget all the anger she had shown. She changed the
subject and began to speak of the indiscretion displayed by Madame in
making the first advances and of the considerable advantages which he
would gain if he married her. In the end, without saying anything
kind to the Duc de Guise, she made him recall a thousand things he
had found so pleasing in Mlle. de MÇziäres. Although they had not had
private conversation for a long time, they found themselves attuned
to one another, and their thoughts went along a track which they both
had travelled in the past. At the end of this agreeable meeting the
Duc was left in a state of considerable happiness, and the Princess
was not a little moved to think that he truly loved her. However, in
the privacy of her room she became ashamed of the ease with which she
had accepted the Duc’s excuses and reflected on the trouble into
which she might be plunged if she engaged in something she had always
regarded with distaste and on the frightening misery which a jealous
husband might inflict on her. These thoughts made her adopt new
resolves, but they disappeared the next day on the sight of the Duc
de Guise.

The new alliance between their families gave the Duc many
opportunities to speak to her. He gave her an exact account of all
that passed between Madame and himself. He had difficulty in
allaying the jealousy to which the beauty of Madame gave rise and any
number of promises failed to reassure her. This jealousy enabled the
Princess to defend the remains of her heart against the advances of
the Duc, who already had won the greater part of it.

The marriage of the King to the daughter of the Emperor Maximilian
filled the Court with fàtes and celebrations. The King put on a
ballet in which Madame and all the princesses were to dance; among
them only the Princess de Montpensier could rival Madame in beauty.
The Duc d’Anjou and four others were to make an appearance as Moors;
their costumes would all be identical, as was usual in this sort of
performance. On the first occasion on which the ballet was
presented, the Duc de Guise, before the dance began and before he had
donned his mask, said a few words to the Princess as he went past
her. She saw clearly that the Prince her husband had noticed this,
which made her feel uneasy. A little later, seeing the Duc d’Anjou in
his mask and Moorish costume, who was coming to speak to her, she
mistook him for the Duc de Guise and said to him “Do not have eyes
for anyone but Madame this evening: I shall not be in the least
jealous. I am ordering you. I am being watched. Do not come near me
again.” As soon as she had said this she moved away.

The Duc d’Anjou stood there thunderstruck. He saw that he had a
successful rival: the reference to Madame made it obvious that this
was the Duc de Guise, and left him in no doubt that his sister was to
play second fiddle to the Princess de Montpensier. Jealousy,
frustration and rage joining to the dislike which he already had for
the Duc roused him to a violent fury; and he would have given there
and then some bloody mark of his temper had not that dissimulation
which came naturally to him prevented him from attacking the Duc de
Guise in the present circumstances. He did not, however, refrain
from the pleasure of disclosing his knowledge of this secret affair.
He approached the Duc de Guise as they left the salon where they had
been dancing and said to him “To presume to raise your eyes towards
my sister, as well as stealing the affection of the woman I love is
altogether too much. The presence of the King prevents me from taking
any action just now, but remember that the loss of your life may be,
one day, the least thing with which I shall punish your
impertinence.”

The pride of the Duc de Guise was not accustomed to submit tamely
to such threats, but he was unable to reply because at that moment
the King called both of them to his side. He did not forget, however,
and tried all his life to exact revenge.

From that evening the Duc d’Anjou endeavoured in all sorts of ways
to turn the King against the Duc de Guise. He persuaded the King
that Madame would never agree to her proposed marriage to the King of
Navarre as long as the Duc de Guise was allowed to have any contact
with her; and that it was unacceptable that a subject, for his own
vain purposes, should place an obstacle in the way of what could
bring peace to France. The King already disliked the Duc de Guise
and this speech inflamed his dislike so much that the next day when
the Duc presented himself to join the ball at the Queen’s
apartments, he stood in the doorway and asked him brusquely where he
was going. The Duc, without showing any surprise answered that he
had come to offer his most humble services, to which the King replied
that he had no need of any services which the Duc might provide, and
turned away without any other acknowledgement. The Duc was not
deterred from entering the room, his feelings incensed both against
the King and the Duc d’Anjou. His natural pride led him, as an act
of defiance, to pay more attention to Madame than usual, and what the
Duc d’Anjou had told him prevented him from looking in the direction
of the Princess de Montpensier.

The Duc d’Anjou watched both of them with close attention. The
Princess’s expression, in spite of herself, showed some chagrin when
the Duc de Guise spoke with Madame. The Duc d’Anjou who realised
from what she had said to him, when she mistook him for the Duc de
Guise, that she was jealous, hoped to cause trouble. He drew close to
her and said, “It is in your interest and not in mine that I must
tell you that the Duc de Guise does not deserve the choice you have
made of him in preference to me, a choice which you cannot deny and
of which I am well aware. He is deceiving you, Madame, and betraying
you for my sister as he betrayed her for you. He is a man moved only
by ambition, but since he has the good fortune to please you, that is
enough; I shall not attempt to stand in the way of a felicity which
without doubt I merit more than he. It would be undignified for me to
persist in trying to gain the heart which is already possessed by
another. It is bad enough to have attracted only your indifference
and I would not like to have this replaced by dislike by wearying you
with endless protestations of unwelcome devotion.”

The Duc d’Anjou who was genuinely touched by love and sadness, was
hardly able to complete this speech, and although he had begun in a
spirit of spite and vengeance, he was so overcome when he thought of
the Princess’s beauty and of what he was losing by giving up all hope
of being her lover, that without waiting for her reply he left the
ball, saying that he felt unwell, and went home to nurse his grief.

The Princess de Montpensier stayed there, upset and worried as one
might imagine. To see her reputation and her secret in the hands of a
suitor whom she had rejected and to learn from him that she was being
deceived by her lover were not things which would put her in the
right frame of mind for a place dedicated to enjoyment; she had,
however, to remain where she was and later go to supper in the
company of the Duchess de Montpensier, her mother-in-law.

The Duc de Guise who had followed them to his sister’s house, was
dying to tell her what the Duc d’Anjou had said the day before, but
to his astonishment when he did have the opportunity to speak to her,
he was overwhelmed by reproaches which were tumbled out in such angry
profusion that all he could gather was that he was accused of
infidelity and treachery. Dismayed at finding himself in this unhappy
situation when he had hoped for consolation, and being so much in
love with the Princess that he could not bear to be unsure if he was
loved in return, he took a sudden decision. “I shall lay your doubts
at rest.” He said. “I am going to do what all the royal power could
not make me do. It will cost me my fortune but that is of little
account if it makes you happy.”

He went straight from his sister’s house to that of his uncle, the
cardinal. He convinced him that having fallen into the King’s
disfavour, it was essential that it should be made quite clear that
he would not marry Madame, so he asked for his marriage to be
arranged with the Princess de Portien, a matter which had previously
been discussed. The news of this was soon all over Paris and gave
rise to much surprise. The princess de Montpensier was both happy
and sad. Glad to see the power she had over the Duc, and sorry that
she had caused him to abandon something so advantageous as marriage
to Madame. The Duc who hoped that love would compensate him for his
material loss, pressed the Princess to give him a private audience so
that he could clear up the unjust accusations which she had made. He
obtained this when she found herself at his sister’s house at a time
when his sister was not there and she was able to speak to him alone.
The Duc took the opportunity to throw himself at her feet and
describe all that he had suffered because of her suspicions, and
though the Princess was unable to forget what the Duc d’Anjou had
said to her, the behaviour of the Duc de Guise did much to reassure
her. She told him exactly why she believed he had betrayed her which
was because the Duc d’Anjou knew what he could only have learned from
him. The Duc did not how to defend himself and was as puzzled as she
to guess what could have given away their secret: at last, while the
Princess was remonstrating with him for giving up the idea of the
advantageous marriage with Madame and rushing into that with the
Princess de Portien, she said to him that he could have been certain
that she would not be jealous since on the day of the ball she
herself had told him to have eyes only for Madame. The Duc said that
she might have intended to do so but that she certainly had not. She
maintained that she had, and in the end they reached the correct
conclusion that she herself, deceived by the resemblance of the
costumes, had told the Duc d’Anjou what she accused the Duc de Guise
of telling him. The Duc de Guise who had almost entirely returned to
favour, did so completely as a result of this conversation. The
Princess could not refuse her heart to a man who had possessed it in
the past and had just made such a sacrifice to please her. She
consented to accept his declaration and permitted him to believe that
she was not unmoved by his passion. The arrival of the Duchess, her
mother-in-law, put an end to this tàte-Ö-tàte, and prevented the Duc
from demonstrating his transports of joy.

Some time later, the Court having gone to Blois, the marriage
between the King of Navarre and Madame was celebrated. The Duc de
Guise who wanted nothing more than the love of the Princess de

Montpensier, enjoyed a ceremony which in other circumstances would
have overwhelmed him with disappointment.

The Duc was not able to conceal his love so well that the Prince
de Montpensier did not suspect that something was going on, and being
consumed by jealousy he ordered his wife to go to Champigny. This
order was a great shock to her, but she had to obey: she found a way
to say goodbye to the Duc de Guise privately but she found herself in
great difficulty when it came to a means of providing a method
whereby he could write to her. After much thought she decided to
make use of the Comte de Chabannes, whom she always looked on as a
friend without considering that he was in love with her. The Duc de
Guise, who knew of the close friendship between the Comte and the
Prince de Montpensier, was at first amazed at her choice of the Comte
as a go-between, but she assured him of the Comte’s fidelity with such
conviction that he was eventually satisfied. He parted from her with
all the unhappiness which such a separation can cause.

The Comte de Chabannes, who had been ill in Paris while the
Princess was at Blois, learning that she was going to Champigny
arranged to meet her on the road and go with her. She greeted him
with a thousand expressions of friendship and displayed an
extraordinary impatience to talk to him in private, which at first
delighted him. Judge his dismay when he found that this impatience
was only to tell him that she was loved passionately by the Duc de
Guise, a love which she returned. He was so distressed that he was
unable to reply. The Princess, who was engrossed by her infatuation,
took no notice of his silence. She began to tell him all the least
details of the events, and how she and the Duc had agreed that he
should be the means by which they could exchange letters. The thought
that the woman he loved expected him to be of assistance to his
rival, and made the proposal as if it was a thing he would find
agreeable was bitterly hurtful, but he was so much in control of
himself that he hid all his feelings from her and expressed only
surprise at the change in her attitude. He hoped that this change
which removed even the faintest hope from him would at the same time
change his feelings, but he found the Princess so charming, her
natural beauty having been enhanced by a certain grace which she had
acquired at Court that he felt that he loved her more than ever. This
remarkable devotion produced a remarkable effect. He agreed to carry
his rival’s letters to his beloved.

The Princess was very despondent at the absence of the Duc de
Guise, and could hope for solace only from his letters. She
continually tormented the Comte de Chabannes to know if he had
received any and almost blamed him for not having delivered one
sooner. At last some arrived, brought by a gentleman in the Duc’s
service, which he took to her immediately so as not to delay her
pleasure for a moment longer than necessary. The Princess was
delighted to have them and tortured the poor Comte by reading them to
him, as well as her tender and loving reply. He took this reply to
the waiting courier even more sadly than he had made the delivery.
He consoled himself a little by the reflection that the Princess
would realise what he was doing for her and would show some
recognition. Finding, however, that she daily treated him with less
consideration, owing to the anxieties which preoccupied her, he took
the liberty of begging her to think a little of the suffering she was
causing him. The Princess who had nothing in her head but the Duc de
Guise, was so irritated by this approach that she treated the Comte
much worse than she had done on the first occasion when he had
declared his love for her. Although his devotion and patience had
stood so many trials, this was too much. He left the Princess and
went to live with a friend who had a house in the neighbourhood, from
where he wrote to her with all the bitterness that her behaviour had
provoked and bid her an eternal adieu.

The Princess began to repent having dealt so harshly with a man
over whom she had so much influence, and being unwilling to lose him,
not only on account of their past friendship, but also because of his
vital role in the conduct of her affair, she sent a message to him to
say that she wished to speak to him one more time and that afterwards
she would leave him free to do as he pleased. One is very vulnerable
when one is in love. The Comte came back, and in less than an hour
the beauty of the Princess, her charm and a few kind words made him
more submissive than ever, and he even gave her some letters from the
Duc de Guise which he had just received.

At this time there was a scheme afoot in the Court to attract
there all the leaders of the Huguenots, with the secret aim of
including them in the horrible massacre of St. Bartholomew’s day. As
part of this attempt to lull them into a false sense of security, the
King dismissed from his presence all the princes of the houses of
Bourbon and de Guise. The Prince de Montpensier returned to
Champigny, to the utter dismay of his wife, the Duc de Guise went to
the home of his uncle, the Cardinal de Lorraine.

Love and idleness induced in him such a violent desire to see the
Princess de Montpensier that without considering the risks to her and
to himself he made some excuse to travel and leaving his suite in a
small town he took with him only the gentleman who had already made
several trips to Champigny, and went there by post-chaise. As he
knew no one whom he could approach but the Comte de Chabannes, he had
the gentleman write a note requesting a meeting at a certain spot.
The Comte, believing that this was solely for the purpose of
receiving letters from the Duc de Guise went there, but was most
surprised to see the Duc himself and equally dismayed. The Duc, full
of his own plans, took no more notice of the Comte’s dismay than had
the Princess of his silence when she told him of her amour. He
described his passion in florid terms and claimed that he would
infallibly die if the Princess could not be persuaded to see him.
The Comte replied coldly that he would tell the Princess all that the
Duc wanted to convey and would return with her response. He then went
back to Champigny with his own emotions in such a turmoil that he
hardly knew what he was doing. He thought of sending the Duc away
without saying anything to the Princess, but the faithfulness with
which he had promised to serve her soon put an end to that idea. He
arrived without knowing what he should do, and finding that the
Prince was out hunting, he went straight to the Princess’s
apartment. She saw that he was distressed and dismissed her women in
order to find out what troubled him. He told her, as calmly as he
could, that the Duc de Guise was a league distant and that he wanted
passionately to see her. The Princess gave a cry at this news and her
confusion was almost as great as that of the Comte. At first she was
full of joy at the thought of seeing the man she loved so tenderly,
but when she considered how much this was against her principles, and
that she could not see her lover without introducing him into her
home during the night and without her husband’s knowledge, she found
herself in the utmost difficulty. The Comte awaited her reply as if
it were a matter of life or death. Realising that her silence
indicated her uncertainty, he took the liberty of presenting to her
all the perils to which she would be exposed by such a meeting, and
wishing to make it clear that he was not doing this in his own
interest, he said that if, in spite of all that he had said she was
determined to see the Duc, rather than see her seek for aid from
helpers less faithful than himself, he would bring the Duc to
her. “Yes Madame,” he said, “I shall go and find the Duc and bring him
to your apartment, for it is too dangerous to leave him for long
where he is.”

“But how can this be done?” interrupted the Princess.

“Ha! Madame,” cried the Comte, “It is then decided, since you speak
only of the method. I shall lead him through the park; only order one
of your maids whom you can trust to lower, exactly at midnight, the
little drawbridge which leads from your antichamber to the flower
garden and leave the rest to me.” Having said this he rose and
without waiting for any further comment from the Princess, he left,
remounted his horse and went to look for the Duc de Guise, who was
waiting for him with the greatest impatience.

The Princess remained in such a state of confusion that it was
some time before she came to her senses. Her first thought was to
send someone after the Comte to tell him not to bring the Duc, but
she could not bring herself to do so. She then thought that failing
this she had only not to have the drawbridge lowered, and she
believed that she would continue with this resolve, but when the hour
of the assignation drew near she was no longer able to resist the
desire to see the lover whom she longed for, and she gave
instructions to one of her women on the method by which the Duc was
to be introduced into her apartment.

Meanwhile the Duc and the Comte were approaching Champigny, but in
very differing frames of mind. The Duc was full of joy and all the
happiness of expectation. The Comte was in a mood of despair and
anger, which tempted him at times to run his sword through his rival.
They at last reached the park, where they left their horses in the
care of the Duc’s squire, and passing through a gap in the wall they
came to the flower garden. The Comte had always retained some hope
that the Princess would come to her senses and resolve not to see the
Duc, but when he saw that the drawbridge was lowered he realised that
his hope was in vain. He was tempted to take some desperate measure,
but he was aware that any noise would be heard by the Prince de
Montpensier whose rooms looked out onto the same flower-garden, and
that all the subsequent disorder would fall on the head of the one he
loved most. He calmed himself and led the Duc to the presence of the
Princess. Although the Princess signaled that she would like him to
stay in the room during the interview, he was unwilling to do so, and
retired to a little passage which ran alongside the Princess’s
apartment, a prey to the saddest thoughts which could afflict a
disappointed lover.

Now, although they had made very little noise while crossing the
bridge, the Prince de Montpensier was awake and heard it. He made
one of his servants get up and go to see what it was. The servant
put his head out of the window and in the darkness he could make out
that the drawbridge was lowered. He told his master who then ordered
him to go into the park and find out what was going on. A moment
later he got up himself, being disturbed by what he thought he had
heard, that is, footsteps on the bridge leading to his wife’s
quarters.

As he was going towards the little passage where the Comte was
waiting, the Princess who was somewhat embarrassed at being alone
with the Duc de Guise, asked the latter several times to come into
the room. He refused to do so and as she continued to press him and
as he was furiously angry he answered her so loudly that he was heard
by the Prince de Montpensier, but so indistinctly that the Prince
heard only a man’s voice without being able to recognise it as that
of the Comte.

These events would have infuriated a character more placid and
less jealous than the Prince de Montpensier. He hurled himself
against the door, calling for it to be opened, and cruelly surprising
the Princess, the Duc de Guise and the Comte de Chabannes. This
last, hearing the Prince’s voice, saw immediately that it was
impossible to prevent him from believing that there was someone in
his wife’s room, and that he was in such a state that if he found
that it was the Duc de Guise he might kill him before the eyes of the
Princess and that even her life might be at risk. He decided, in an
act of extraordinary generosity, to sacrifice himself to save a
successful rival and an ungrateful mistress.

While the Prince was battering on the door, he went to the Duc,
who had no idea what to do, put him in the care of the woman who had
arranged his entry by the bridge and told her to show him the way
out. Scarcely had he left when the Prince having broken down the
door entered the room like a man possessed. However when he saw only
the Comte de Chabannes, motionless, leaning on a table with a look
of infinite sadness on his face, he stopped short. The astonishment
of finding his best friend alone at night in his wife’s room deprived
him of speech. The Princess had collapsed onto some cushions and
never perhaps has fate put three people in a more unhappy position.
At last the Prince made an attempt to make sense of the chaos before
his eyes. He addressed the Comte in a tone of voice which still had
some friendliness, “What is this I see?” he said, “Is it possible
that a man I love so dearly has chosen among all other women to
seduce my wife? And you, Madame,” he said, turning to his wife, “Was
it not enough to deprive me of your love and my honour without
depriving me of the one man who could have consoled me in such
circumstances? Answer me, one of you,” he said to them, “And explain
this affair, which I cannot believe is what it seems.” The Princess
was incapable of replying and the Comte opened his mouth once or
twice but was unable to speak.

“You see me as a criminal” he said at last “And unworthy of the
friendship you have shown me; but the situation is not what you may
think it is. I am more unhappy than you and more despairing. I do
not know how to tell you more than that. My death would avenge you,
and if you were to kill me now you would be doing me a favour.”
These words, spoken with an air of the deepest sorrow, and in a
manner which declared his innocence instead of enlightening the
Prince confirmed him in the view that something mysterious was going
on which he did not understand. His unhappiness was increased by this
uncertainty. “Kill me yourself,” he said. “Or give me some explanation
of your words for I can understand nothing. You owe it to my
friendship, you owe it to my restraint, for anyone but me would have
already taken your life to avenge such an affront.”

“The appearances are wholly misleading,” interrupted the Comte.

“Ah! It is too much. I must be avenged and clear things up later,”
said the Prince, advancing towards the Comte like a man carried away
by rage. The Princess, fearing bloodshed, (which was not possible as
her husband did not have a sword) placed herself between the two of
them and fell fainting at her husband’s feet. The Prince was even
more affected by this than he was by the calmness of the Comte when
he confronted him, and as if he could no longer bear the sight of
those two people who had caused him such distress, he turned away and
fell on his wife’s bed, overcome by grief. The Comte de Chabannes,
filled with remorse at having abused the friendship of which he had
had so many marks, and believing that he could never atone for what
he had done, left the room abruptly and passing through the
Princess’s apartment where he found all the doors open, he went down
to the courtyard. He had a horse brought to him and rode off into
the country led only by his feelings of hopelessness. The Prince de
Montpensier, seeing that his wife did not recover from her faint,
left her to her women and retired to his own quarters greatly
disturbed.

The Duc de Guise having got out of the park, hardly knowing what
he was doing being in such a state of turmoil, put several leagues
between himself and Champigny, but could go no further without news
of the Princess. He stopped in the forest and sent his squire to
find out from the Comte de Chabannes what had happened. The squire
found no trace of Chabannes but was told by others that the Princess
was seriously ill. The Duc’s inquietude was increased by what the
squire had told him, but as he could do nothing he was constrained to
go back to his uncle’s in order not to raise suspicions by too long
an absence.

The Duc’s squire had been correct when he said that the Princess
was seriously ill, for as soon as her women had put her to bed she
was seized by a violent fever with horrible phantasies, so that by
the second day her life was despaired of. The Prince pretended that
he himself was ill so that no one should be surprised that he did not
visit his wife’s room. The order which he received to return to the
Court, to which all the Catholic princes were being recalled in
preparation for the massacre of the Huguenots, relieved him of his
embarrassment. He went off to Paris without knowing what he had to
hope or fear about his wife’s illness. He had hardly arrived there
when the assault on the Huguenots was signalised by the attack on
admiral de Chatillon. Two days later came the disgraceful massacre,
now so well known throughout Europe.

The poor Comte de Chabannes who had gone to hide himself away in
one of the outer suburbs of Paris to abandon himself to his misery
was caught up in the ruin of the Huguenots. The people to whose house
he had retired, having recognised him, and having recalled that he
had once been suspected of being of that persuasion, murdered him on
the same night which was fatal to so many people. The next day the
Prince de Montpensier, who was in that area on duty, passed along the
street where the body of the Comte lay. He was at first shocked by
this pitiful sight and, recalling his past friendship, was grieved;
but then the memory of the offence, which he believed the Comte had
committed, made him feel pleased that he had been avenged by the hand
of chance.

The Duc de Guise who had used the opportunity of the massacre to
take ample revenge for the death of his father, gradually took less
and less interest in the condition of the Princess of Montpensier;
and having met the Marquise de Noirmoutier, a woman of wit and
beauty, and one who promised more than the Princess de Montpensier,
he attached himself to her, an attachment which lasted a lifetime.

The Princess’s illness reached a crisis and then began to remit.
She recovered her senses and was somewhat relieved by the absence of
her husband. She was expected to live, but her health recovered very
slowly because of her low spirits, which were further depressed by
the realisation that she had received no news of the Duc de Guise
during all her illness. She asked her women if they had not seen
anyone, if they had not had any letters, and finding that there had
been nothing, she saw herself as the most wretched of women, one who
had risked all for a man who had abandoned her. A fresh blow was the
news of the death of the Comte de Chabannes, which her husband made
sure she heard about as soon as possible. The ingratitude of the Duc
de Guise made her feel even more deeply the loss of a man whose
fidelity she knew so well. These disappointments weighed heavily upon
her and reduced her to a state as serious as that from which she had
recently recovered. Madame de Noirmoutier was a woman who took as
much care to publicise her affairs as others do to conceal them. Her
relations with the Duc de Guise were so open that, even though far
away and ill, the Princess heard so much about it that she was left
in no doubt. This was the final straw. She had lost the regard of
her husband, the heart of her lover, and the most loyal of her
friends. She took to her bed, and died not long after in the flower
of her youth. She was one of the loveliest of women and could have
been one of the happiest if she had not strayed so far from the path
of prudence and virtue.

This entry was posted in Bernard Tavernier, Historical movies, Interviews with Directors. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s