Smallpox is once more reported in Paris.  Henri IV writes, from Villers-Cotterets, to Mme de Montglat on 18 July 1603, advising her to no longer allow his children to receive visitors, and to isolate them from anyone who could infect them.

The governess understands the necessity for this isolation, and has no hesitation in carrying out orders when circumstances dictate it.  The King is quick to thank her, and approves her decision to separate his daughter de Verneuil from the Dauphin and his other children, when she comes down with the characteristic rash.

Mme de Verneuil is allowed “to see her daughter and to care for her”.  It is agreed that she should have “a room at the castle and that it should be convenient”, but the rest of the family is to be lodged at the new building, far from the contaminated child.

Henri IV worries that his daughter may “have a lot of smallpox on her face, and where does she have it, is she very ill?”.  He asks for as much information as possible.

As we have seen, Henri IV does not make any distinction between his legitmate children and his bastards.  One day, the King enquires as to whether or not his son Verneuil has been purged.  Another day, his son Orleans is “very ill with a violent attack of fever”, and he is worried.  Not for very long, for he goes on a deer hunt to distract him from his worries.

But where we see that he puts all “the little troop at Saint-Germain” on the same level, and that he has the same sollicitude for all of his children, is in a letter which he wrote to Sully, on 16 May 1608.

“My friend, I am not easy, having here all of my children ill.  My daughter de Verneuil has the measles, but it is going away with little fever, so I think that she will be cured within two or three days.  My son [the Dauphin] yesterday vomitted twice with a little fever and drowsiness with a sore throat which makes the doctors think that he might have caught the measles;  however, it let him rest last night.  My son d’Orleans still has continual fever, but one day stronger than another, and it seems that it is a double tertian fever.  You must believe that with all this I am uneasy… ”

Marie de Medicis shows herself to be a lot colder concerning the “flesh of her flesh”.  Richelieu reports, in his Memoires, that he had “heard from Mr de Bethune, that another time, she was so little moved by the extreme illness of the Duke of Orleans, that the late King [Henri IV], who was alive then, found it very strange.”

If she was away for a long time, the Queen received the news sent to her by Mme de Montglat, but did “not answer, sometimes [because] of the inconvenience of the places”.  Here is one of the letters sent by the governess to Marie de Medicis.

“Madame de Montglat to the Queen.

“Saint-Germain, 7 June 1602


“My Lord the Dauphin continues to be well thank God, there are just the scabs on his face which give him some discomfort because they are very itchy, he had none on his forehead where they have returned this last week, I fear that on the arrival of Your Majesties, he will have a mask, it is when he has the most that he feels the best, when he had fever, he didn’t have any more, I feel happy that some have come back since, believing that he will be better for it as thanks to God he has always been, this is what makes me believe that Your Majesties would better like to see him healthy and scabby than otherwise.  He is always very gay, and shows us every day new fruits of his garden by the increase in his knowledge, and new effects of his judgement and of his spirit which are admirable in a child of his age, I hope that Your Majesties will soon have this pleasure for which I pray God, and that they receive as much happiness from it as desires, Madame, Your very humble very obedient very faithful and very obliged subject and servant.


“From Saint-Germain-en-Laye,

7th June (1602).”

When the Queen answered, it was with simple notes “dry, laconic, pure form:  during the trip to Metz, which lasted one month, she sent only one short and insignificant letter.”

A contemporary of Louis XIII, goes as far as saying that, during the four years of her regency, she didn’t once embrace her son;  he learned of this “from an old courtier of that time, who permitted himself to tell him of it”.

It was not that the Queen completely neglected her children, she looked after them, but from afar.  If a plague erupted in Paris, the Queen immediately wrote to the governess, “to keep an eye open to see if this disease does not install itself at Saint-Germain”;  and if it did, to make sure that “no-one coming from outside lives in the town, nor anyone at all sees the children”.  As “for the children of the nurses and others”, they should go “to stay in Saint-Germain, elsewhere, or wherever they want”.

Another time, ” there are a lot of illnesses of smallpox, measles and contagion in Paris and in the towns and villages around Saint-Germain”.  All the royal line was hastily transported “to the new building”, on top of the hill.

The Louvre was considered unhealthy because of its moats, and when the Queen decides to have her little family brought to Paris, she settles it in a healthy suburb, surrounded by trees.  She rents for them the luxurious hotel of Mr de Luxembourg.  She will later build a magnificent residence on the same spot.

It would be unjust to say that Marie de Medicis was devoid of all maternal sollicitude, but she only accomplished her strict motherly duties.  For example, if one of her children had to be weaned, or the midwife advised her to delay the weaning of another, the Queen asked the advice of Heroard or the King’s First Doctors, Messrs du Laurens and de la Riviere.  The nurse of little Chretienne having no more milk, she decides to wean her, but “after the cold season, if this can be done without inconvenience”.

Like a number of mothers, she tended to believe that all of the indispositions suffered by her children were caused by teething.  “What my daughter is feeling,” she wrote to the governess.  “Is doubtless only the pain of her teeth, which are ready to pierce;  this will pass… ”  Even more calmly, she says that “it is not always possible to prevent illness when it has to come, principally in children the age of my daughter;  as much care as possible must be taken with the cure.”

She made no effort to win the affection of her children.  No effusions, not the slightest caress.  Stiff and distant, she froze them by her presence, and as if she wanted to push them farther away from her heart, she was not sparing in physical punishments.

Third part tomorrow.