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All For One- Chapter Twenty-Eight
28. Flight of Buckingham
Buckingham spent more and more time at the Louvre. Any chance he got to see Anne of Austria was an excuse to visit. For her part, Anne was charmed by the young Londoner, but kept her reservations in check. She knew that many married women took lovers, but she wasn’t ready to be that kind of woman just yet. She also knew that for a queen to be unfaithful to her King was not only adultery but treason. Everyone knew the story of Henry of England and his six wives. She had no intention of having her head chopped off over a handsome man.
However she was curious. She wanted to see him. For the first time since her abduction, she opened the door in her room that led to the secret passageway. Slipping though the tight path, she found the room where Buckingham was staying. She opened the door a crack and peered through. She watched him through the door as he wrote correspondence for a few minutes. She was content just to watch him. She was a good Catholic girl, and she remembered what her tutors had said about temptation. Up until that moment, she never had a problem being good. When he started to remove his clothes to prepare for bed, she understood the true meaning of temptation. She couldn’t help but compare this fascinating specimen of manhood to the child she was married to. She had heard rumors that King James fancied the young Buckingham in a sinful way. After seeing him undressed, she believed that he could topple the purest of saints.
Anne closed the door, hands shaking. She didn’t know if she could resist the enticement. She vowed that she will not fall victim to sinful thoughts. To that end she always made sure that any time spent with Buckingham were also spent either in the company of the King or de Luynes. She wished to be above suspicion. As such, when Buckingham mentioned a desire to attend the theatre, Anne made it a royal outing.
Plays were performed at the Hôtel de Borgogne, so named because the land on which it stood once owned to the Duc de Burgundy. It had a simple stage on one end of the room with rows of galleries or loges along the other walls. In the middle of the room, was the pit where the commoners stood.
The royal party sat in two loges. The King and Queen sat in one loge with Buckingham to the Queen’s right and de Luynes next to the King. If Marie were in Paris, she would be sitting next to the Queen. In the next loge, The Queen Regent sat with Leodora Concini as well as her husband and the Bishop.
“I am surprised that Mlle de Montbazon could not join us,” de Luynes said.
“She has gone to Brittany to visit her father,” Anne said.
“Ah,” de Luynes said. “I was wondering where she has been this past week.”
Anne smiled. “I see that you have noticed her absence, de Luynes.”
“Only because you are so fond of her, your majesty,” de Luynes said. “One rarely sees one without the other.”
“The Queen has a point, however, Charles,” Louis said. “Perhaps you fancy Mlle de Montbazon?” he teased.
De Luynes smiled. “Any friend of her majesty’s must be worth fancying,” he said.
“Very well spoken,” Anne said. “His majesty should reward you with another castle.”
“I’ll see if I have one to spare,” joked Louis. “Not that I plan to give too much away Buckingham. I would hate for you to think that England could win back France one castle at a time.”
Buckingham chuckled. “Perhaps just the theatres,” he said.
“You are welcome to them,” Louis said.
“In London we have several public theaters,” Buckingham said. “Although there are a few private indoor places, I prefer to view plays with the people.”
“Do you like the plays in England?” Anne asked.
“A particular playwright I was rather fond of recently passed away,” Buckingham said. “He had stopped writing altogether a few years ago, and no one has really risen to replace him. Ben Jonson still writes but I think his best years are behind him. I saw a production recently by a John Webster.” He shuddered. “Vile.”
“In Spain, our theatres are called corrales,” Anne said. “All this,” she said, pointing to the ceiling, “is all open to the sky. And men and women are not allowed to sit together. They have an alcalde to keep them separated.”
Behind the King’s party, stood Bertrand and André. Bertrand looked over at his friend Tréville who was standing guard behind the Queen Regent. Marie d’Mecidi and Leodora were chatting away about who-knows-what, as if the play wasn’t even there. Concini looked miserable, but Richelieu looked as if he were actually enjoying the play. He found it interesting that the Bishop would be so interested in theatre. In his own booth, the King looked bored, occasionally leaning over to talk to de Luynes. The Queen and Buckingham were clearly enjoying the play, but Bertrand thought they also enjoyed each other’s company.
Once the play was over, they slowly walked to the carriages, with the guards surrounding them. Plays were always over before sunset to allow theatre patrons the possibility of being able to walk home afterwards. From the corner of his eye, Bertrand saw a rushing figure and a glint of metal. A knife!
“Die, Anglican dog!” was yelled as a lone figure leapt in the air towards de Luynes. Bertrand was quicker. He darted his hand out for the knife and grabbed the blade, biting back the pain as the sharp edge cut into his right hand.
Behind him, André leapt and tackled the assailant, dashing him to the ground. In quick succession, André pummeled the man’s face with his right fist, beating him into submission. Tréville stood in front of the King, pistol drawn, and the other guards surrounded de Luynes and the Queen Regent. Buckingham shielded Anne with his body, his hands on her arms.
“Are you, alright?” he asked her.
“Yes, I’m fine,” she said, gazing into his eyes. Bertrand couldn’t help but notice Buckingham’s hands on the Queen. Louis noticed as well. He marched up to them.
“Anne?” he inquired.
Buckingham dropped his hands.
“I’m fine,” she said. “Is someone seeing to that man’s hand?” she quickly asked, changing the subject and walking over to Bertrand.
“Pay it no mind, my Queen,” Bertrand said, cradling his bleeding hand.
Vitry ran up. “Get the royal party in the carriages immediately, he ordered.”
They rode away to the Louvre. André rode on the running board near where de Luynes was sitting.
“Are you certain you’re alright, your grace?” he asked.
“I’m just shaken up,” de Luynes said. “What did the madman yell before he attacked?”
“‘Die, Anglican dog’,” André said. “Odd, isn’t it?”
“I don’t think you were the target, your grace,” André said.
“You think he was after Buckingham?” de Luynes asked.
“Then why attack me?”
André thought. “Maybe he didn’t know what Buckingham looked like, saw you next to the King, and assumed you were the Earl from England”
De Luynes pondered this all the way back to the Louvre. When they disembarked, he had a plan.
The next morning, the Queen was seen riding on a sumptuous ferry in the Seine. Accompanying her, along with several courtiers, was Buckingham, or at least that is what everyone along the Pont Neuf was saying. There was a lot of interest in the young handsome Earl, but no one could get a clear look at him from such a distance. When the ferry approached the Pont Neuf, the Queen ducked inside, presumably for her own protection. The Earl of Buckingham had his back to the bridge and no one could see his face. Once the ferry passed under the bridge, he had turned the other way, so once again no one on the Pont Neuf could see his face, but they all knew that this man was the very handsome Earl of Buckingham.
If they could only have heard the man speak they would not hear a thick English accent, but rather a thick Gascon accent. The Earl of Buckingham on the boat was no Englishman, but rather a guard with a wounded hand. M. Bertrand d’Artagnan’s hand was wrapped tightly to prevent further bleeding after the assassination attempt. He also looked very handsome in Buckingham’s clothes.
“Do you think this is going to work?” the Queen asked her faux Englishman.
“As long as we play our part, your majesty,” he replied. “If people believe that Buckingham is here, on this boat, then Buckingham and André will have no opposition on their journey to Calais. We must be more convincing than the actors we saw yesterday.”
She laughed. “How is your hand?” she asked.
He smiled. “Your majesty is kind to ask.” He flexed his fingers slowly. “It hurts, but I have had worse injuries in the service of the King.”
“How long have you been in service?” she asked.
“Since I was a young man,” Bertrand said. “But I shall retire soon, your majesty. I have recently purchased a title and I look forward to soon settling to my small bastide with my family.”
She found herself interested in this man’s story. “You have children, M. d’Artagnan?”
“Five, your majesty,” he said. “The eldest son, who will inherit my lands; his brother, who has entered into the priesthood; my eldest daughter, who is about your age and is ready to be married. The thought of that impending nuptial has provided much of this gray hair you now see. Finally there is her younger sister, and my youngest son, Charles, who talks of nothing else but being a swordsman like his father.”
“You have a daughter my age?” she asked.
“Yes, your majesty,” he said. “That was why I was so eager to help you when you were abducted. I could only imagine my daughter in the same situation. We are all someone’s son or daughter, and I suppose that when people are in trouble, a father is always a father.”
She smiled. “You have a wonderful, honorable way of viewing the world, M. d’Artagnan.”
He bowed. “You honor me, your majesty.” His mind drifted to his friend André, who left Paris, by his estimation, five minutes ago through the Port St. Honoré.
Indeed Buckingham, accompanied by André, was at that moment racing towards Amiens. They were both dressed as simple farmers. Buckingham did not care for his possessions, for he knew that they would be shipped to London immediately. Both men were heavily armed.
They traveled almost due North to Amiens, where they stopped for water and to rest their horses. They felt safe, but André was still weary.
“What did you find in your interrogation?” Buckingham asked.
André shrugged. “He was a fanatical Catholic, your Grace. We tortured him to try and find out if he was part of a bigger conspiracy, but he was not.”
“You are certain of your methods?”
André shuddered. “They weren’t my methods, but I assure you, if he had information, he would have told us. After what he went through, he would have admitted to stabbing Julius Caesar if we asked him. Fanatical Catholics are commonplace here. Our last two kings were murdered by fanatical Catholics, so you would have been in great company, your Grace.”
Buckingham grimaced. “I have no intention of being murdered by a religious zealot. I will have to delay my trip to Spain, for I have pressing engagements at home. I hate that I had to leave Paris so quickly. I enjoyed spending time with the royal couple.”
André smiled. “I think they enjoyed you as well, your Grace. No doubt you would be a welcome visitor in the future.”
After they rested, they mounted their steeds and rode north once more, crossing the Somme and traveled to the sea. They had to avoid the region of Artois, which was disputed territory with the Hapsburgs, so they traveled to Montreuil, then up the coast to Boulogne and finally to Calais.
They did not have to wait long for a ferry across the channel. When it was time to board the two men said a fond farewell.
“It’s a mere thirty miles to Dover,” André said. “You shall be on English soil soon.”
“You have been a good traveling companion, André du Toulon,” Buckingham said. “Give my regards to her majesty.”
“I shall, your Grace.”
- All For One- Chapter Twenty-Seven
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel
- All For One- Chapter Twenty-Nine
The ne xt chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel