We left off yesterday contemplating an ahistorical plot twist to the story: Richelieu and Luynes, the King’s man, as confederates in the Concini affair. Yes, it flies in the face of accepted history — which includes Richelieu’s own personal letters on the matter — but it’s just too damn juicy to ignore. We’re writing fiction, after all, where what should have been is just as valid as what was. So let’s continue on with our outline of the plot:
Richelieu relaxes and invites Luynes to sit. The King’s man is desperate — word has come from the palace of a falling out between Concini and the Queen-mother, and that Concini is using his stolen wealth to finance a small, professional army. “This,” Luynes says, “puts all our plans in jeopardy.”
Richelieu reassures him; he advises Luynes to cling to the plan, regardless of the rumors swirling around the palace. Luynes is not so sure, but the Bishop is adamant. “You have come this far. Do not fail your master, now.” Nodding, Luynes exits the carriage.
Richelieu orders his driver to make for Concini’s palace.
Yeah, I think my gut was right — this adds a wrinkle to the story that might make it fresh for those already familiar with the historical facts of the Concini affair. It plays to the modern myth of Richelieu as the slightly sinister puppet-master made famous by Alexandre Dumas (now there’s a man who didn’t let historical fact stand in the way of a good story!)
For the next scene, we should continue our formula of switching to the man in the broad-brimmed hat:
V. The inner courtyard of the Louvre Palace. The man in the broad-brimmed hat walks its circuit; he scans every inch of ground from gate to gate, hands behind his back. He reaches a spot in the lee of the wall and whirls, drawing a heavy cavalry pistol, arm at full extension. The hammer falls, an ominous *click*. The man in the broad-brimmed hat nods and resumes walking the circuit of the courtyard . . .
At this point, roughly half-way, I think the reader can deduce who is going to be killed, here. Now, the mystery comes from what exactly is Richelieu’s part in it. Is he going to betray both sides? Let’s see:
VI. Concini’s palace is awash in torch-light, a sullen beacon that draws the worst element to itself. Richelieu skirts a courtyard filled with swaggering bravos — men with loose swords and looser tongues. He sees Concini holding forth, wine sloshing from his goblet as he sings a scurrilous ballad about the Queen-mother and her son.
Richelieu ignores him; he slips beneath an arch and mounts a flight of steps to a door, where a very worried Leonora Concini greets him. She ushers him inside and belatedly tries to hide the collection of Tarot cards spread atop a small table. Rather than berate her, Richelieu asks her what her divinations revealed. “Death,” she replies. Richelieu gives her a reassuring smile. “We are all fated to die, my dear woman,” he says. They discuss this new falling out between her husband and Marie de Medici, and Richelieu soothes her worries by telling Leonora he has just come from the palace, where the Queen-mother was full of regret for her harsh words. “She would reconcile herself with your husband, but he must show her an act of contrition. However you must, make sure he attends the Queen-mother tomorrow morning, at his earliest convenience.” Leonora is tearfully thankful for the Bishop’s intervention. Richelieu wishes her a good evening and departs.
One of our research sources made a great point about Leonora: she was a small, vivacious brunette who dripped Italian mystery and charm, and not even the stalwart Bishop was immune to her. Richelieu, they say, did not believe the rumors she was a witch. And leave it to Richelieu to understand that, to get a stubborn husband to toe the line, you go to his even-more-stubborn wife.
We are deep in the fantasy version of events, now. Deep enough to offend those who cling to the religion of historical accuracy. We know this, but it doesn’t matter to us. Our only goal is to tell an interesting story, and tell it well. And so we forge on:
VII. Dawn. Paris shakes itself awake. The working classes go about their daily grind, but there is a tension in the air. Servants and messengers hurry between the many palaces that line the Seine; guards lever the doors to the Louvre open, signifying the start of the day. Courtiers and suppliants stream into the royal edifice, where they hear the King has planned an early hunt. They mill about, twittering like birds; none notice the man in the broad-brimmed hat leaning in the shadow of the wall.
This scene serves multiple purposes: it’s an establishing shot of Paris, showing the stage upon which our drama unfolds; it reconnects us yet again with the man in the broad-brimmed hat, and it serves as a transition of time. In movie terminology, we’re now ready to delve into our third act:
VIII. Surrounded by a bodyguard of hired thugs, Leonora chivvies Concini along. They quarrel over his supposed act of contrition, but he relents for the good of their fortunes. Leonora leaves him with a kiss. Looking down on them from a window above, she sees the Bishop. Richelieu nods to her.
Inside, Richelieu gestures for a serving boy. He hands him a letter and instructs him to find Concini in the inner courtyard and give it to him. The boy runs off to do the Bishop’s bidding. Richelieu walks along until he is in a position overlooking the inner courtyard. He watches Concini enter; he sees the man in the broad-brimmed hat stiffen. Others, too, take an unhealthy interest in Concini’s band of men.
This scene contains a nod to history: in the true events of 24 April 1617, Concini was reading a letter when his assassination took place. In our version, the letter is, of course, from Richelieu . . . but what does it contain? Is he warning Concini? Or is it some sort of Machiavellian “fuck you”? At this point, I don’t have a clue — it seemed like a good idea, but whether it’s a red herring or something more, I can’t say. Let’s keep going and find out, shall we?
IX. Concini is chatting with a courtier when a boy rushes up and thrusts a letter into his hand. “From the Bishop, milord!” Concini cracks the seal and reads. His face screws up in a look of confusion; he glances around . . .
. . . and sees the man in the broad-brimmed hat stalking toward him. “Concini!” he shouts, drawing his heavy cavalry pistol. “In the name of the King!” And with that, the man fires. His pistol-ball shatters Concini’s skull. The soldiers of his guard shrink back from the assassination, save one. One man leaps to his lord’s defense, only to be warned off by the man in the broad-brimmed hat. The King’s Guard appears in the crowd, and very soon the chant of “Vive le Roi!” echoes through the Louvre.
Interestingly, the man that leapt to Concini’s defense, M. de St. Georges, was selected by Richelieu to be the first captain of the Cardinal’s Guard. And now, we tie it all together and bring the story to its end:
X. Richelieu watches all this from a window along the Grand Gallery. There is a commotion behind him; he turns and sees the party of the King coming, jubilant at the murder of Concini. Louis himself hails the Bishop. “The tyrant is dead, Luçon! I am king! What say you to that?” Louis, though, does not wait for an answer; he pushes on down the Grand Gallery. Luynes, though, hangs back.
“I have overstayed my welcome, it seems,” Richelieu says with a faint smile. This time, Luynes reassures him. “The King will see you tomorrow, my friend. I will speak to him myself.” Richelieu thanks him and the two men part company.
A short time later, the Bishop boards his carriage. Waiting inside is the grief-wracked widow of Concini, Leonora. If Richelieu is surprised it does not show. He sits and barks at his driver. The carriage rumbles forward.
“I’m told the letter was from you, Bishop,” Leonora says. “What did it say?”
“It was a bit of Scripture I thought relevant to your husband’s position. ‘Non vosmet ipsos defendentes carissimi sed date locum irae scriptum est enim mihi vindictam ego retribuam dicit Dominus’,” Richelieu replies.
“Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord. You lied to him. To us.”
“Upon my birth, my father consecrated my life to the service of the King. ‘Regi Armandus.’ For good or ill, I was merely fulfilling my purpose.”
Leonora calls for the driver to halt; she gets out of the carriage on the Pont Neuf. “You are a vile creature, Armand de Richelieu, and I curse you to a life of suffering!”
“I do not fear your witchcraft, Leonora. My faith shields me. Your husband’s enemies, however, are not so forgiving.” He gestures behind them, where a mob has spilled onto the bridge. They hoist Concini’s naked and mutilated body onto a gibbet. “Vive le Roi!”
And with that, Richelieu’s carriage rattles on, leaving Leonora Concini at the mercy of the mob . . .
And there you have it. A road-map to our story. As I said at the beginning of this, we may not stick to this outline, but at least we have a concrete idea of where to begin and where to end, and a good overview of what happens in the middle.
Oh, and I didn’t know what Richelieu’s letter would contain until about 9 AM this morning, when I started drafting this post.
Tomorrow, then, we begin writing.