Miriam In The Middle

I read the article Why we love cat memes in Salon. It’s about felines in arts. And about the author’s many cats. I thought I might use the pretext to display a few images of cats I have.  But it turned out not such a great article after all. Besides, everyone is probably sick of internet cats everywhere anyway.

Instead, as a tribute to felines, I post a love story (historically accurate, all things considered) about  a Queen, a Cardinal and a Cat.

Everyone heard of the Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers.  The beautiful Queen Anne of Austria, unhappy in her marriage to the King Louis XIII of France, falls in love with the dashing Duke of Buckingham. Cardinal Richelieu is determined to rat on her to the King, but he needs a tangible proof of her infidelity. The Cardinal could’ve been successful in destroying the Queen’s honor, if it weren’t for d’Artagnan and his three brave musketeers friends…

 Frans Pourbus, the Younger (Flemish, 1569-1622) Anne of Austria (1601–1666) as a young Princess

Frans Pourbus, the Younger (Flemish, 1569-1622) Anne of Austria (1601–1666) as a young Princess

However, before the handsome English Duke stole Anna’s heart, there was another love in her life, which could have changed the history of France. Its flame was feeble and destined to die before the conflagration ensued… And it’s all because of Miriam.

Philippe de Champaigne. Louis XIII. 1665

Philippe de Champaigne. Louis XIII. 1665

Anne of Austria, the Spanish princess of the House of Habsburg, was fourteen when she married the French King Louis XIII. Cardinal Richelieu was appointed as a confessor of the young queen. Domineering and ambitious man of forty, he was severe, cold and calculating. He never let emotions gain control over reason. To reach his goals he used treachery, fraud and every dirty trick under the stars. “Give me just six lines written by the hand of an honest man, and I’ll find a darn good reason to hang him.”

Cats were the only creatures that the Cardinal truly loved. Numerous cats roamed the palace. The fluffy white Miriam was the Cardinal’s absolute favorite. He took her everywhere with him and her hair was the constant plague of his opulent robes.

Miriam

Miriam

But then something odd happened. Cardinal Richelieu fell passionately in love with the Queen. Contemporaries admit that by then, barely out of her teens, Anna blossomed into a majestic beauty, the beauty and charm that captivated a cruel heart of the cruelest man in France.

At first, the young Queen was unimpressed by Richelieu’s courtship. To her – vivacious and young — he seemed old and boring. “If this living mummy will dance sarabande for me, I’ll be ready for a lot,” she teased him. And he did! Forgetting his usual caution, he dropped his robe and danced quite vigorous Spanish sarabande.

Anna was no fool. She knew  whose hands held the real power, and that there was no better ally to be found in the entire kingdom. But the true love had no chance. The Queen and the Cardinal held only a few secret meetings, and then no more. All because of Miriam!

Charles Édouard Delort (1841–1895) The Cardinal's Leisure

Charles Édouard Delort (1841–1895) The Cardinal’s Leisure

The moment overcome by passion Cardinal makes his move – Anna’s eyes would start itching and fill with tears. She’d cry. And she’d cry ever more with every step Richelieu would make toward her. It was a curse of the House of Habsburg – a strange malady, unnamed at the time, that we know now as allergy. Anna suffered particularly badly being exposed to animal fur. Her estrangement from her husband, a passionate lover of hounds and horses, might’ve had the same reason.

Miriam was by the Cardinal’s side way too often, and his robes were abundantly covered by her hair. And Anna cried and cried, until such time that she no longer could stand the sight of the poor most powerful man of the kingdom.

One day soon, the brilliant Duke of Buckingham will visit the Louvre. But this would be another love story, the one worthy of the Alexandre Dumas’ pen.

Peter Paul Rubens. Portrait of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham. 1625

Peter Paul Rubens. Portrait of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham. 1625

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