Henriette d’Entragues isn’t satisfied with simply being the mistress of Henry IV of France she wants a crown too. Despite his promises to marry her the King is obliged by political necessity to ally himself with Marie de Medician Italian princess who will bring riches to the treasury. But Henriette isn’t for giving up easily. She has a written promise of marriage which she intends to use to declare the royal marriage illegal. All she has to do to achieve her ambition is to give Henry a son then whatever it takes through intrigue and conspiracy to set him on the throne.
‘The marriage arrangements have been successfully concluded.’ Ferdinando I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, beamed exultantly upon his niece, Marie de Medici. ‘In return I have agreed to release France from its indebtedness, the balance to be given in cash to a total sum of 600,000 crowns, which will represent your dowry.
Poor Marie. She was but a pawn in a game of politics. Marriage was rarely about love and generally about money, land, estates, politics or power. Henry IV knew that France was in a parlous state, and much as he might wish to marry Henriette d’Entragues, his mistress, he must do his duty and marry an Italian Princess. Henriette dubbed her ‘The fat banker.’
Royal brides often went through a proxy marriage first, as the intended husband was more than likely thousands of miles away, and she would not be allowed to embark on such a journey without that security. It was as binding as the true marriage ceremony, which followed when the bride and groom actually met.
His Eminence made his entry on horseback beneath a canopy held high by eight young Florentine nobles, preceded by all the ecclesiastical and secular bodies, sixteen prelates, and fifty gentlemen bearing halberds.
Afterwards would come the celebrations with a ball and banquet, hunting-parties, jousts, races, tilting at the ring and other sports, while the nights would be filled with dancing, plays, masques and ballets. The bride would then set out to go to her husband, a journey across land and sea which might take weeks or even months. And often within hours of bride and groom meeting, the ceremony proper would take place. At her own wedding Marie clearly displayed the wealth she had brought to the alliance.
Dressed in a gown of crimson, blue and gold, fashioned in the Italian style and glittering with jewels that represented a goodly portion of her dowry, she looked a queen in every respect, even one not yet crowned. About her neck she wore the valuable pearl necklace, given to her by the King, but the most magnificent ornament consisted of an octagonal diamond brooch. Worn on her stomacher it was framed by several smaller stones, each enclosing a portrait in enamel of one of the princes of her house, beneath which hung three large teardrop pearls. It became known as the Queen’s Brilliant.
And so the bride would be wedded and bedded to a perfect stranger, stripped of her possessions, her ladies-in-waiting often returned whence they came, and a whole new way of life in a foreign land would begin. Within days of Marie de Medici’s marriage, Henry returned to Henriette.