The second son of Marie de Medicis caused her less worry than Louis XIII did.  Mainly because he died at an early age.

He was born in the night of 19 to 20 March 1607, around 2 a.m..  His birth was accompanied by a strange phenomenon.

Two sentinels, one French, the other Swiss, made a report to the King the following morning.  They had “seen, coming from underneath the Queen’s bedroom, the form of an eaglet, surrounded by a great light, which passed over the garden, near the clock, with a great bang, like from a thunderbolt or from a cannon”.

Certain conclusions were drawn from this.  Some said that “this eagle was a prediction of the future greatness of this little prince, to whom the heavens seemed to promise the Empire, and that his name, like a thunderbolt, would explode throughout all the universe.  Others made diverse predictions, not less favorable.”

However, “the end showed well that we shouldn’t be sure of these or similar signs and meteors, for the fourth year and six months of his age, the little Duke of Orleans died at Saint-Germain-en-Laye.  And if we make any judgement on such a sign, it would be more obvious to say that, like a flash of lightning and a thunderbolt, this royal eaglet passed promptly from this life to the next”.

His brief existence gave continual alerts.  The doctors didn’t know what remedies to try.  Baths succeeded cauteries.  Goat’s milk was tried.  All with no result.

In November 1611, the patient’s health worsened.  On 14, he was almost in a coma-like state, with a few light convulsions.  He raised himself on his bed to answer his brother, who had come to visit him.

“Good evening, my brother,” the King said to him.

“Good evening, my little Papa (as he called him)”, replied the patient, painfully.  “You honour me too much by taking the trouble to come to see me.”

The King started to cry, left and didn’t come back.

The next day, Louis XIII asked his governor for news.

“Isn’t there any way to save him?”

“Sire”, replied Mr de Souvre.  “The doctors are doing what they can, but you must pray to God for him.”

“I am very willing to do that”, answered the child-king.  “Isn’t there anything else that can be done?”

“Sire, you should dedicate him to Our Lady of Lorette.”

“I am very willing to do that.  What should I do?  Where is my chaplain?”

The chaplain came and said to the King:  “You must make a silver image as high as he is.”

“Send to Paris straight away.  Hurry up”, said Louis, quickly.

And then “he prayed to God, with tears in his eyes”.

The next day, he woke at midnight to ask about the state of Monsieur, his brother.  Then, he went back to sleep.  Almost at the same moment, the Duke of Orleans died, “between midnight and one o’clock”, says Heroard.  “By falling asleep, with a few convulsions.”

All these symptoms rather resemble a meningeal illness, particularly as the child is described to us as “endowed with an enormous head on a squeletal body”.  The autopsy does not infirm this hypothesis.

On 18, “was opened the body of the late Mr Duke of Orleans, in presence of Mr Antoine Petit, First Doctor of the late King, and Mr Jean Houltin, doctor of Paris, by Elie Bardin, surgeon of Paris, and Simon Berthelot, his surgeon”.  The brain was found to be “filled with catarrhs and all spoilt, full of black water, and the cerebellum fell apart in the fingers in handling it”.  A few days later,  the royal child’s body was transported to Saint-Denis.

Marie de Medicis felt violent grief to begin with, but her affliction didn’t last long.  There remained, to console her, the second Duke of Orleans, born one year after the prince whom she had just lost.

Sixth part tomorrow.

Advertisements