Henri IV of France was an excellent father. He adored all of his children, legitimate or illegitimate. From 1593 to 1609, he had eight children from his official mistresses, and six from his wife.
All of them were grouped at Saint-Germain under the responsibility of their governess, Francoise de Longuejoue, the wife of Robert de Harlay, Baron of Montglat and the King’s First Maitre d’Hotel. Mme de Montglat had been chosen as the Dauphin’s governess eight days before his birth.
L’Estoile mentions the Montglat couple, saying that the man was “violent and angry, and his wife even worse”.
Mme de Montglat, before being named governess to the Dauphin, had raised the children whom Henri IV had had with Gabrielle d’Estrees. She remained their governess while taking up her new functions.
Henri IV entrusted her with all of his mistresses’ children, as they were born. She ended up having as many as nine charges, from five different mothers.
Apart from the governess, the doctor played an active role. The one chosen to look after Louis XIII’s health was Jean Heroard (which he pronounced Herouard).
He had been attached to the person of Kings Charles IX, Henri III and Henri IV, as ordinary doctor. For over twenty-six years, he remained with Louis XIII, keeping a daily register of his slightest indispositions. Thanks to this document, we are able to know the most intimate details of the life of the royal family.
Louis XIII’s first tooth was quite an event. His apothecary, Mr Guerin, left immediately to carry the news to the King at Fontainebleau.
The King rarely visited his son. The Queen, Marie de Medicis, ceremoniously kissed him at the side of his forehead, and became very red at the sight of him. She appears to have been rather indifferent toward him.
Much more familiar, Henri allowed his beard to be pulled with both hands. The child pulled so hard that he hurt him. It was one of his ways of caressing, like pulling Mr le Grand’s moustache, or grabbing the cheek of his nurse’s chamber maid.
On 17 July 1602, “straps were put on his robe, to teach him to walk”. On 22, “dressed in a new coat”, he was taken to the King, in the gardens, where he was walking after having taken the waters. The Queen wants to take him, but he cries so much that he has to be removed.
A detail, which shows the extreme moral liberty in which the royal child lived, is given by Heroard, who notes it, without appearing to be in the least surprised. “Dressed at seven o’clock, he takes pleasure, and laughs out loud, when the rocking nurse plays with his little knob, using the tip of her finger.”
On 21 November, the Dauphin is transported to the new castle. This change was imposed by the sanitary situation at Saint-Germain.
Since March, there had been a smallpox epidemic there, which had first of all attacked the children of Henri IV and Gabrielle, Alexandre Monsieur and Mlle de Vendome. Later, the son of Mr de Frontenac caught it. The royal child had to be removed from this contagious place.
On 27 January 1603, “the King gives him some wine to taste” for the first time. A few days later, he is allowed to eat some duck, the “first meat that he has eaten”, then some capon. “He found everything good.”
Charles Martin, the King’s painter, is called in to paint the Dauphin’s portrait. He lives in Paris, on the Pont Notre-Dame, near Saint-Denis-de-la-Chartre. The Dauphin is kept amused in his little chair so that he stays still during the sitting.
Second part tomorrow.