One June day in 1639, at the château of Chaumont in Touraine, young Henri d’Effiat, the marquis of Cinq-Mars, takes leave of his family and sets out, at the request of Cardinal Richelieu, Louis XIII’s chief minister, to join King Louis XIII’s forces at the Siege of Perpignan. Shortly after he leaves, his mother’s guest, Marshal Bassompierre, is placed under arrest at Richelieu’s order and sent in chains toward Paris and the Bastille. Young Cinq-Mars tries to release the marshal, but the haughty old soldier refuses to be rescued. As if his flouting of the king’s officers were not enough for one day, Cinq-Mars returns under cover of night to the château to bid good-bye to Marie de Gonzaga, the beautiful duchess of Mantua, who has been staying with Cinq-Mars’s mother at the château. He returns to bid her farewell because the two, despite the differences of their stations, are very much in love.
Finally leaving Chaumont, Cinq-Mars, accompanied by a few servants, sets out for Loudun. Upon his arrival, he finds the town in turmoil because a local clergyman, a monk named Urbain Grandier, is on trial, accused of being a magician. Charges against the monk have been made by order of Richelieu, who wishes to do away with the independent cleric. The Abbé Quillet, Cinq-Mars’s former tutor, has taken the clergyman’s part and is about to leave Loudun in secret, fearful for his own life. At the execution of Grandier, Cinq-Mars discovers that officials in attendance, the man’s assassins (for they are but that), have given him a red-hot cross to kiss. Cinq-Mars seizes the cross and with it strikes the face of the judge who condemned Grandier, thus earning the enmity of one of Richelieu’s most trusted agents.
After the execution, Cinq-Mars hastens on his way to Perpignan. In the meantime, however, Cardinal Richelieu is making plans to use Cinq-Mars as a tool in undermining the authority of the king. The report of his agents about Cinq-Mars’s actions with regard to the king’s officers and Richelieu’s agents makes no difference to the cardinal, who believes he can shape the young man to his own ends.
Shortly after his arrival at Perpignan, Cinq-Mars is asked to represent the monarchists’ side in a duel against a cardinalist sympathizer. Immediately after the duel, he finds himself in the thick of an attack on the walls of the besieged city, along with the members of the king’s own guard. He behaves so valiantly in the struggle that the captain of the guard introduces Cinq-Mars to the king, much to the disgust of Cardinal Richelieu, who himself had planned to introduce Cinq-Mars to the monarch.
King Louis takes an immediate liking to Cinq-Mars, who has suffered a wound in the battle, and he makes the young man an officer in the royal guards. During the battle, Cinq-Mars had befriended the son of the judge he had struck with the cross at Loudun; the son, a bitter enemy of his father who hated all that his father and...
(The entire section is 1217 words.)