There is a melancholy pleasure in strolling through apartments that are haunted by such memories as these.
Hall Of Francis I, Fontainebleau.
One after another, we enter and study them as separate chapters of French history. A name recalled here almost as frequently as Napoleon's is that of Francis I, the pleasure-loving friend of artists, who called from Italy to Fontainebleau, to aid in its embellishment, Leonardo da Vinci, Benvenuto Cellini, Andrea del Sarto, Primaticcio, and Rosso. Unfortunately Fontainebleau's souvenirs of the illustrious painter of the Last Supper are few in number; for when Leonardo came to the French Court he was sixty-three years old and in feeble health, and consequently unable to contribute much to art in the four years of life remaining to him. The story that he died in the arms of Francis is probably a myth, the evidence being almost certain that the King was in another part of France when Leonardo's death occurred; but that Francis I always treated him with the greatest honor, and evinced sincere grief on hearing of his death, there is no doubt. In fact, all the great geniuses of Italy whom Francis summoned here were treated like princes; and sumptuous apartments, numerous servants, horses, hounds, - in short, the best the Court afforded in the way of pleasure and of luxury, - were placed at their disposal. To Cellini Francis is said to have exclaimed: "My friend, which is happier, the King who finds an artist like yourself, or the artist who meets a King like Francis I?"
In walking through these brilliant halls of Fontainebleau we recollect the account of a visit paid here to the French King, in 1539, by the redoubtable Charles V of Spain, who wished to pass thus to the Netherlands through the kingdom of his rival.
"If Charles dares to traverse France," said the King's jester, "I will give him my fool's cap."
"But what if I allow him to do so? " asked the King.
"Then," replied the fool, "I will take back my cap and make a present of it to you."
Francis I laughed, but Charles V came, was entertained extravagantly, and departed in safety.
Not without risk, however. For it is said that when Charles V first entered Fontainebleau, and was received by the French King, the beautiful Duchess of Etampes whispered to Francis, on whose arm she was leaning: "Do not let him escape you."
"My brother," said Francis, a moment later, as he presented the duchess to his royal guest, "this fair lady has just advised me to keep you here a prisoner till you shall have destroyed the treaty of Madrid."
"If the advice is good," replied Charles V, "you should follow it;" and he proceeded to converse with his host as unconcernedly as if the latter had spoken merely in jest.
But two hours later, as they were about to seat themselves at table, and as the Duchess of Etampes presented to Charles V a gold basincontaining water, the Spanish sovereign, as he dipped his hands in the liquid, dropped in the basin a diamond ring of great value. The duchess called his attention to it, but Charles V remarked smilingly: "The ring evidently wishes to change owners, and at present it is in too beautiful a hand for me to reclaim it." From that moment, it is said, the duchess changed her policy, and far from urging the King to treat the royal traveler treacherously, it was she, who five years later, betrayed to Charles V the plans of Francis I, in the war then being waged between them.
The Ball-Room, Fontainebleau.
In the long library at Fon-tainebleau, called the Gallery of Diana, the traveler sees a blood-stained coat of mail which, though it turned at first the sword-thrusts of assassins, could not protect its wearer's life. The sight of it recalls an atrocious act of cruelty committed here by a woman.
On the 10th of November, 1657, Christina, ex-Queen of Sweden, who was then residing at Fontainebleau, as a guest of Louis XIV, having become convinced of the treason and unfaithfulness of her favorite, the Marquis de Monaldeschi, caused him to be murdered in the Galerie des Cerfs, an apartment just beneath the library. Her wretched victim flung himself on his knees at her feet and implored her pardon, but she was inexorable.