The Trouble With Huguenots – Snippet 18

Chapter 11


July 1636

“They can’t leave from the Hôtel de Sully,” Raudegen said. “I say that from a professional perspective. The Royal Guards have posted too many sentries. They can’t disappear from the court when they are attending the queen and princess. It’s not just that they are closely observed there, although they are. There are too many people milling around in random patterns. An escape party would run too much risk of encountering someone utterly unexpected.”

“Maybe they could leave from the Hôtel if there was a party going on,” Ruvigny commented. “Something like the ballet they held last summer. There would be a couple of hundred guests coming and going and a major congestion of horses, carriages, servants, caterers, etc.”

“Possible.” Raudegen moved and looked down into the courtyard. “What kind of party?”

“We can check with Benserade. He’ll be glad to work for us again. He’s thankful now that he never succeeded in obtaining patronage from Richelieu and Mazarin.”

“It would be easiest for them to leave if it’s some kind of an outdoor production. Down in the courtyard there.”

Benserade, when consulted, pointed out that outdoor productions were subject to the vagaries of the weather. “Even better than a ballet, hire the new Théâtre du Marais. It’s in a remodeled tennis court on the Vielle Rue du Temple, right opposite the Capuchins. They renovated it two years ago, so it’s all modern. It wouldn’t be a good idea to use the Hôtel de Bourgogne, even though they’ve accumulated a lot of indoor sets over the years, because that theater had too many long-standing ties to Richelieu, plus the name…. Bad association, given what Bernhard has done. Right now, they’re probably all thinking that locating it on the Rue Mauconseil was prophetic–very bad advice. It might offend the king for the duchesses to sponsor a production there.”

At this point, they had to take the new and better escape concept to the ladies themselves.

“Not a ballet again,” the duchess said. “It would be all too déjà vu. We must find something different. A contemporary play will be too dangerous.” Her voice was firm. “There are too many chances to offend. It will have to be a pastoral, classical theme. Comedy, not tragedy. Not a satire. Pyramus and Thisbe, perhaps??

“Oh, Maman. That’s so overdone.”

“I want something incorporating dance and music with the dialogue,” the duchess continued. “Not an opera, because Mrs. Simpson is sponsoring operas in Magdeburg. Not a musical comedy, because the queen in the Netherlands is sponsoring musical comedies in Brussels. We need something else. Something that will not offend the king. Perhaps even something that will placate the king.”

Gerry’s thoughts turned to science fiction and fantasy. “You need the development of a scion from obscurity to glory. Scions are really good, like in Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! Well, probably not just like Pratchett, considering how Carrot turns out at the end, no matter how great an author Pratchett is–was–will be–used to be–still is? Anyhow, focus on the scion. I must have read twenty books that go something like the following, by different authors. Or not so many different authors. Eddings used to write the same story over and over again. He just changed the names. Brooks did pretty much the same with the Shannara series. So, to start, you’ve got this family living somewhere in Fantasia.”


“Well, that’s an old Disney movie, but you can make it generic. There was this glorious book called The Tough Guide to Fantasy Land that came out a couple of years before the RoF. It was one of Diana Wynne Jones’ things. We have it at home, but that’s neither here nor there and you don’t need it to make this play.”

“Focus,” Bismarck said. “Focus.”

“You know what he’s talking about,” Ruvigny interjected. “Arcadia. Heroines named Amerinde and heroes named Cleonice. We’ve all read them.”

“Think about it, guys,” Gerry barreled on. “You won’t even need enough time for someone to compose new music. Oh, your composer will have to add the high notes and low notes and chords and such, but I can give you enough pre-cooked melodies to carry it off, since this thing won’t have a performance run.”

He pulled out his harmonica.

“First scene. The Birth of the Scion. Daddy, Mommy, and attendants admire the new prince. All you’ll need is a cradle and a spotlight. Someone sings, Sleep my child and peace attend thee, all through the night; guardian angels God will send thee, all through the night and everybody dances around the cradle. Somebody can translate it into French.

“And then he’s a toddler. Here’s the tune. Bimbo, Bimbo, when you’re gonna grow? Everybody loves the little baby Bimb-bi-o. “He bit his lip. Don’t use the word ‘bimbo.’ Some of the professional actors are bound to have little kids who are used to being around the theater and won’t freeze on stage.”

Benserade nodded. “One of Béjart’s boys will do. The little one–Louis, I think his name is.”

“Then the scion turns into a teenager and all his wonderful, extraordinary, excessive talents and abilities start to shine. From what I hear, it’s hard to go overboard on flattery in this day and age. Fawning on monarchs is right up there with getting a Ph.D. Piled High and Deep. When you gotta’ glow, you gotta glow. So glow little glow worm, glow. Gerry cocked his head. “I’d think up some different lyrics for that, if I were you, and not call Gaston a worm by inference, but this would be the tour de force for whoever dances the part of the Scion. You know, lyrics about how, as he grew up, his qualities began to shine so much that he practically glowed when people looked at him.”

Bismarck ran a hand over his receding hairline.

“Then he goes on some kind of a quest where he meets a foreign princess who is the true love of his life. Everybody will be able to tell that she’s a perfect match for him, because her the music for her dance sounds pretty much the same and uses the same chords. Three little maids who all unwary, come from a ladies’ seminary.

“Then everyone dances a few more dances, the Scion is received as king with overwhelming joy. You go back to the lullaby and as the young king and queen are crowned, with his mama dripping tears and pride in the background, you have God singing from the roof Go, my children, with my blessing, never alone. Waking, sleeping, I am with you; you are my own.”

Gerry leaned back, exhausted from this long excursion into the field of derivative imagination. “And they go off the stage. Outdoors, you have a crew shoot fireworks off. You can’t do fireworks inside the theater. It’s too dangerous, which is a pity. Up-time, there was some night club where a couple of hundred people burned alive because it caught on fire when they shot off fireworks indoors. They’ll distract the audience’s ears from what you’re doing, though.”

“Fireworks distract eyes, too,” Marc pointed out. “All the outside gawkers will be looking up, or at least most of them.”

“Can you write this?” the duchess asked.

“Nope,” Gerry said cheerfully. “I’m a one note wonder. One note at a time on the harmonica; one finger on the piano, for that matter. Plink, plank, plunk. I’m no musician. I can’t do chords. I’m no playwright. I can’t do dialogue. But I sure can borrow ideas from bad books. You’ll have to get your people to take it and run with it.”

The conversation degenerated into cacophony.

“Montdory can take the lead. No, he can direct. No, he….”

“Whatever you do, don’t touch Montfleury with a ten foot pole. Everyone knows how strong his ties to Richelieu were.”

“Scriptwriter? Has Gaston forgiven Voiture yet?”

“DesBarreaux could do it,” Benserade said, “but by all that’s sacred, don’t put his name in the program if he agrees. Much less Sanguin. Schelandre is Calvinist, which might be an advantage, but he’s old enough that his scripts sound fusty and in any case he’s out of town, campaigning. With all apologies to you soldiers,” he nodded at Rouvigny and Bismarck, “wars are a nuisance as far as literature is concerned. Not for subject matter–they provide a lot of grist for the mill–but for trying to find time to write if a man is sitting in some uncomfortable tent with people likely to shoot at him any day.”

Bismarck, being without literary ambitions, laughed.

Benserade barreled on. “Mairet’s good, and he’s willing to write happy endings instead of being focused on the prestige of writing tragedies, but he’s hung up on classical unities, plus he was born in Besançon, which isn’t politically correct right now. I say get Rotrou, even if he has been writing for the Hôtel de Bourgogne. It will get his name before the new king, and right now they need all the help they can get over there if the theater is going to survive the change in regime. He writes fast. Last year he told me he’s already done more than thirty plays and he’s not thirty years old yet. Some of those are translations or adaptations, though.”

Then there was the matter of casting, which caused another conversational jumble.

“Marguerite will be the princess, of course.”

“But who is to dance the young king?”

“Well, Cinq-Mars, since he’s Gaston’s current candidate for Marguerite’s hand. Seeing them on stage together will appease the king’s advisers.”

“If Cinq-Mars dances the prince, in the coronation scene you can even throw in a reference to the heroic death of the former king in battle, and that will apply to the marquis‘ father and take everyone’s minds off what happened to Louis.”