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is to be regarded as honest cheating, and what as dishonest. Where such an absolutely authoritative tribunal is to be found, and who the literary Cæsar is that we are to get to preside over it, I confess that I do not at the present moment perceive. Doubtless, however, it might be found, and then all our woes would be at an end. Henceforward it would only have to speak, and we should obey. I appeal unto Cæsar !
THE DAME DE CHÂTEAUBRIANT
TRAVELLERS who descend the valley of the Loire often break their journey before reaching Nantes in order to visit those old castles with which the French Renaissance, assisted by the House of Valois, embellished both banks of that river. Some of them are now in ruins; several were destroyed by the Revolution, together with their inmates; while those which survived that storm have suffered from vandals in the shape of their new owners and their masons. Even the Government has at times contributed to their destruction. Yet enough remain to charm the passer-by, to adorn the landscape, and invite the researches of archæologists. Blois Castle impresses one by its elegant architecture, Chambord by its imposing but inoffensive towers, Amboise by its Gothic remains, Chaumont by its enigmatical walls, Tours by its churches and old houses, and all by the historical memories which their names awaken in cultivated minds.
When the curious traveller has visited these relics of the past, and has arrived at Nantes, he rarely thinks of pushing on to the right, and he thus misses the pleasure of contemplating domains less ambitious, but to which are attached famous histories, legends, and romances of amours or crimes well worthy of his attention. A light railway carries one at an easy speed through beautiful scenery to a small town with a celebrated name—Châteaubriant. The place has less than five thousand inhabitants, but possesses a castle, built in the eleventh century by Briant, Count de Penthièvre, in which is said to have taken place an awful tragedy.
Scarcely anything is now left of the ancient fortress except a few walls, some pieces of curtain, a pointed-arch doorway, a small round tower, and a large square one which once proudly passed for a dungeon, but now serves ingloriously as a prison. The entrance to the castle has nothing attractive about it, the said prison being the vestibule, but as soon as the courtyard is reached the visitor stands amazed. On one side, a colonnade of twenty arcades charms the eye by its elegant proportions. At the end, there is a building of sober architecture, consisting of a ground floor with five openings, an upper story having five windows with mullions, and in the roof five projecting stone windows ornamented with sculptured pilasters and frontals. The arrangement is simple and stately, and recalls the castles of the Loire and the time of Louis the Twelfth. These buildings are so extensive that room has been found in them for a museum, the souspréfecture, the municipal offices, the local court, and, finally, the police station, which secures the safety of the whole edifice.
The tragedy which we are about to relate did not, as might have heen supposed, take place in the old château, but in the new one, a building which enchants the man of taste by its graceful architecture and the richness of its external decoration. It was then the fashion in France to erect fine edifices, and Jean de Laval, lord of Châteaubriant, who was very rich, spared neither skill nor money to beautify the welling in which he hoped to hold captive the lovely Françoise de Foix, his spouse.
This fair young woman, who is pictured to us in the annals of the period, and especially by the poets, in the most seductive colours, belonged to that noble house of Foix which gave France so many famous warriors. The property of her family having passed by marriage to the house of Albret, which ruled over Navarre, Françoise was brought up at the court of Ann, Duchess of Brittany, successively consort of the two French kings, Charles the Eighth and Louis the Twelfth. There she received an education which nowadays we should call superior, but which was then an ordinary one for the daughters of bigh families. When she was old enough to be attractive she took the fancy of the Count de Châteaubriant, who held in Brittany the highest rank after the Rieux, and was justly regarded in France as a valiant captain. The queen, of whom Françoise was a distant cousin, favoured the count's penchant, and the marriage was concluded by contract about the year 1509. Born in 1495, Françoise was then only fourteen years old. Marriages par contrat sometimes took place before the nubile age between noble families. The latter had not to make any researches nor establish any kinship -all were known to each other.
Jean de Laval was the son of the lady of Rieux, who was head of the house and a cousin of the queen. The court of Blois attracted at that time the noblest and the most learned people of the French provinces. The sons of the great families went there to acquire courtly manners and the culture of letters, as well as to become proficient in the use of arms. There Jean de Laval met Vendôme and Bayard, Fleuranges and Montmorency. He became intimate there with Françoise's three brothers, young seigneurs who were destined to become renowned captains under the names of Lautrec, Lescun, and Lesparre.
Into this fold, where the virtuous and haughty queen kept so many beautiful sheep, a certain wolf often found his way, decked with all the attractions that a wolf of this kind can possess. It was the youthful François d'Angoulême, son of Charles, duke of Angoulême,
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and Louise of Savoy; head, after his father's death, of the younger Valois branch, known in history as the Valois-Orléans-Angoulême branch, and heir to the crown if the king, Louis the Twelfth, died without issue.
According to the chroniclers, young François was the handsomest prince of his time. He excelled in all physical exercises, delighted everybody by his courtly bearing and great intelligence, and was so ready for daring deeds as to cause his mother much anxiety for his safety. Such a gallant knight naturally attracted the regard of women, while he was not by any means insensible to their charms. Throughout his life he displayed a love of beautiful things-poetry, fine architecture, the arts---and for famous painters and their works this amounted to a passion. In France he was called le Père des Lettres, and deservedly so, in spite of what has been said to the contrary. It has also been said that he was le dernier Chevalier.
One can imagine that, with such brilliant qualities, the fair ladies of the French court were only too willing to surrender their virtue to him. The morals of the time were not at all rigid, and although the queen did not permit near her that license of which the little court of Cognac set the example, under the indulgent eye of Louise of Savoy, it would have been difficult to prevent any amorous intrigues between this Prince Charmant and the handsome damsels at the court of Blois. François, married to Claude de France in spite of Anne of Brittany's long opposition to this union, was at Blois as often as at Amboise, where his mother had gone to reside. Claude was but fifteen years old, deformed in body and of a sad temperament. She was a person better fitted to induce respect than to inspire love. Probably the young prince failed to find in her those attractions which he could so easily meet with elsewhere. Although Françoise de Foix was still very young, she had not passed unnoticed, and it may be that Anne of Brittany's haste to marry her to Laval was due to considerations of prudence in regard to her son-in-law. Françoise was married and no longer at Blois, but she had left souvenirs behind her. The girl of fifteen had all the necessary qualities to draw a man like the Duc d'Angoulême, and everything indicates that the day came when he remembered this.
The king was thought to be at the point of death, but it was the queen who died. What were the political considerations that led Louis the Twelfth to seek, by a new marriage, to have an heir, of whom his dynasty had no need? Besides the Valois-Angoulême branch, there remained to satisfy the prescriptions of the Salic law the Capetian branch of the Bourbons. His marriage with Mary, sister of King Henry the Eighth of England, infused some life into the court of Blois, which, austere before, had become quite melancholy. It was François who was charged to go to Boulogne to receive the young princess. Mary was then sixteen years old ; she had pretty
features and a complexion of dazzling whiteness. It has been said that the fair woman in Paul Veronese's picture representing the wedding feast of Cana, now in the Louvre, is her portrait. This is a gross error.
At the time of Mary's death, in 1534, Paul Veronese was only six years of age. The fact, however, that such a comparison has been made shows that the mission entrusted to the youthful Valois must have been a very agreeable one.,
He fulfilled this mission with such ardour as to arouse the anxiety of Louise of Savoy, whose sole ambition was to see her son seated on the throne of France. Warnings were not wanting, for his friends advised him to be prudent. The young queen was agreeable, lively, and probably not disinclined to listen to words of love. Suffolk, who had accompanied her with the title of ambassador and had remained at the French court after the termination of his mission, was also a cause of uneasiness. Louise of Savoy bestirred herself, making plans and negotiating. The saintly Claude had naïvely constituted herself guardian of one whose virtue was suspected; she kept Mary in her apartments under her own eye, and took care that she had no leisure time. In regard to the stay of the sister of Henry the Eighth in France, and the royal progress arranged by François of Valois from Boulogne to Saint-Germain, an interesting and amusing book might be written.
Three months after the marriage the king died (the 1st of January, 1515), and François ascended the throne. His mother's anxiety, however, was not wholly dissipated, and every effort was made to bring about the marriage of the young widow with Suffolk, a rich dower and the right to retain the title of queen being conferred upon her. Both parties willingly answered the call of political exigencies. Mary's sojourn in France had been short ; she had met with nothing but respect, there not having been time for the growth of any bitter feelings, and she left behind her neither the perils that were feared, nor the keen regret which she had perhaps wished to inspire. We wonder whether it was really spite that dictated to King François the somewhat discourteous reflection written by him below the portrait of the beautiful widow remarried : ' Plus sale que reyne.' We will indulgently suppose that it was done out of spite.
That new conception of feminine beauty which found expression subsequently in the elongated limbs of Primatice's figures had already begun to be formed. Sloping loins, long arms and legs, a supple neck, and diminutive feet were regarded as essential elements of beauty in women. Françoise realised this ideal to perfection. Her hair was brown, and, by all appearance, her skin less white than certain poets have pretended. The first writer who speaks of her is Antoine Varillas, in his Histoire de François Ir. It is he who relates the fable that Jean de Laval, being pressed by the king to bring his countess to court, made the excuse that she was too plain. The