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All For One- Chapter Ten
10. The Italians
Concino Concini enjoyed walking through the hallways of the Louvre. Although he was no king, he was the ruler of France, in everything except for name. His forty-year old frame was decked in fine silk and trimmed in lace and he felt he was the most fortunate of men. Some would say that his entire fortune was due to luck, but Concini knew better. Luck played a part, but it was his own shrewdness that got him to where he was, not to mention his marriage to Leonora. He often wondered where he would be had his wife not become the favorite of the Queen Regent. He would probably be home in his native Florence forced to have to sell or buy something for a living. He had small shifty eyes and a long bumpy nose. His brown wavy hair framed his prominent widow’s peak. As was the fashion, his beard formed a clear point under his chin. He had skin that seemed almost too tight for his skull.
He knew that his fortune could not last forever. The King had finally reached his majority and soon the Regent would have to step down. It was vitally important that Louis should view him as an important advisor and ally. Concini’s future depended on it.
As he turned a corner, he spied the Bishop Richelieu. Richelieu was a new addition to the King’s entourage, as the Infanta Anne’s almoner. Concini himself had recommended the energetic bishop for the post after seeing him speak at the Estates-General. Concini knew immediately that Richelieu was very intelligent, and made the decision to pull him into their circle. He didn’t trust Richelieu, for he could sense the young man’s ambition, therefore he decided to keep him close at hand.
“Good morning, your Grace,” Concini said, gaining Richelieu’s attention. “How is the Infanta’s mood today?”
Richelieu smiled. “Well I’m afraid to say she’s very unhappy.”
“Really?” Concini said, concerned. “Why do you think that is?”
“Well it’s really not difficult to surmise the reason of her melancholy,” Richelieu said as they walked down the hall. “Put yourself in her position. She’s traveled a long way from home, from her parents and everyone she grew up with, to a foreign country, with a foreign language, for the purpose of marrying a foreign king whom she doesn’t know.”
“Such things happen all the time,” Concini said.
“Do you not remember what it as like to be fourteen, my lord?” Richelieu said, smiling.
Concini thought back. “I believe I was in love with a different maiden each week.”
“Indeed,” Richelieu nodded. “We think of her as a Princess, but we forget that’s she’s just a child.
They passed through a door to find themselves in the sitting room of the Queen Regent. Marie d’Médicis was posing on a settee for her favorite painter, Peter Paul Rubens. She was clad in black with white lace cuffs and a large white half ruff behind her head. Her neck was adorned with a pearl necklace and her hair with a black veil. Her blond hair, liberally mixed with gray, was pulled back tight. Her skin was pale white, with prominent jowls and no discernable chin. Leodora Concini sat by the painter, watching. When Concino married her she was a thin beautiful, olive skinned Florentine with raven black hair. Now while strands of gray stood out on her scalp, it did nothing to distract from the fine hairs that graced her fat lip. Years of complacent idleness had long banished her once slim figure, and now her clothes fought a daily battle to contain her girth.
“Who’s a child?” the Queen asked.
“We were discussing the Infanta, your majesty,” Richelieu said.
“Ah yes,” the Queen replied. “How is the future mother of my grandchildren?”
“As I was saying to the Marshall a moment ago, the Infanta seems unhappy,” Richelieu.
“Unhappy?” She squawked. “What the devil is she unhappy about? Haven’t we provided her with everything a young girl can desire? By heaven, she will be Queen in a few months. How many girls would give anything to be in her position?”
“I fear she is lonely,” Richelieu said.
“Once she has children, she’ll have no time to be lonely,” the Queen said with a dismissive wave of her chubby arm.
Leodora spoke up. “Perhaps she needs a companion,” she said. “Someone her own age that she can to talk to. I doubt she has any interest in spending time with older people such as us. Certainly nobody in her Spanish entourage is close to her age.”
“What a wonderful idea, dear,” the Queen said. Leodora was always her favorite. “We just simply find someone her age to stay here at the palace for her.”
“But who?” Concini asked. “Is there anyone of the nobility with a daughter her age?”
“Rohan,” Leodora said. “Hercule de Rohan.”
“What of him?” Concini asked.
“He has a daughter, Marie,” Leodora said. “She must be about fifteen by now.”
“That sounds perfect,” the Queen gushed. “Send for this Rohan and his daughter.”
“I shall write to him at once,” Concini said.
“Excellent,” she said. “Now leave me so that Peter here can concentrate.”
Concini and Richelieu bowed to the Queen and exited the room through the same door in which they entered.
“A member of the house of Rohan,” Richelieu mused. “You’re not threatened?”
Concini scoffed. “How much trouble could a girl be?” Concini was unmoved. He didn’t care how much the people hated him. As long as the Queen still thought he was wonderful, he would still be there.
Richelieu held his tongue. Later, in his offices he met with Milady, who told him everything she could about her night with Condé. She left no detail out, for she knew that every scrap of information was valuable, but she simply referred to her night with Condé as an assignation. She didn’t feel the need to divulge all the graphic details to the Bishop.
“In your opinion, will Condé support the plan?” he asked.
“Condé wants to be king,” she replied. “That much is obvious. But he’s not ready yet.”
“Maybe if he wasn’t alone,” Richelieu thought. “If he had someone else, someone who felt the same way.”
“Well there’s someone else who feels he should be king,” Milady said.
“César?” Richelieu asked, referring to Henri IV’s son by his mistress Gabrielle d’Estrées
“Why not?” Milady asked. “Even though he was born out of wedlock, he was legitimized by the King. Naturally he would feel that he’s the rightful king.”
“A volatile combination,” Richelieu said.
“The most likely to cause a stir,” Milady.
Richelieu pondered. “Arrange a meeting,” he said. “As always…”
“…your name is never mentioned,” Milady finished.
“Now then,” he said changing the subject. “What do you know about Marie de Rohan?”
Milady thought, her impressive mind accessing hundreds of bits of information in seconds. She shook her head. “The House of Rohan has ruled Brittany and Anjou for generations.”
“Are they a threat?” Richelieu asked.
“Hard to say,” she said. “I’ve heard rumors that they might support the Huguenot cause.”
Milady knew that was the right thing to say. If Richelieu was passionate about anything it was ridding France of the Huguenots, particularly from the region surrounding La Rochelle, so close to Luçon.
“She may be an unpredictable variable,” Richelieu said. “Eliminate her. Make it look like an accident or a burglary.”
“Can you supply me with her movements?” she asked.
“In a few days,” he replied.
“Then I know just the men,” she answered, smiling.
- All For One - Chapter eleven
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel
- All For One- Chapter Nine
The Next Chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel